Fans, Player Need To Remember That Business Is Just “Business”

By Gregory Moore
Updated: February 25, 2005
Malik Rose was traded to the New York Knicks on Thursday leaving behind a legion of fans who thought of him as family.

SAN ANTONIO – I am as saddened as anyone that the San Antonio Spurs had to let Malik Rose go in a trade with the New York Knicks. For almost two years I, along with thousands of Spurs fans, have held our collective breath when the NBA trade deadline loomed. “Would Rose be traded this year?” That was always a question that loomed in this city. Well on Thursday, February 24, 2005, that answer finally came and it was not a good day for anyone, including Rose himself.

It’s hard to imagine not seeing #31 in the locker room for the rest of the season and for a long time to come. I can understand how the fans feel. I witnessed the trade that sent Sean Elliott to Detroit and watched Avery Johnson start a new season in Golden State. Yes I have photos of both of them, including Sean in a Detroit jersey and Avery leading the Warriors on a set play. Now that was in 1993-94 and back then I was just a newbie reporter/photographer. This trade is different. It’s different because I remember when Malik came to this team. I remember when then general manager Gregg Popovich said they snapped him up because of his hustle. I remember Pop then playing him extensively during those lean years and applauding him when it was Rose’s hustle when the young Drexel product went out there and scrapped for possessions. The city fell in love with him because they had a guy who reminded them of a young Dennis Rodman in his work ethic. He became just as much a staple name in the city as Avery, David Robinson, and Tim Duncan. Then all of a sudden, the Spurs’ management decided that they needed to get bigger in the middle and to dump some salary. Rose was the player the Knicks wanted and the Spurs obliged them by sending Rose and two first round picks. Now the fan in me wants to say that R.C. Buford and Popovich have really screwed this up royally now but the veteran sports writer is holding that person back. The sports writer persona looks at the picture and says, “Business is business.” SOMETIMES EVEN GOOD GUYS HAVE GOT TO GO Is it difficult to separate myself in a manner in which I can objectively look at this trade deal? It’s difficult but not impossible. Like I said earlier, I am as big a Rose fan as anyone but I also have to stay true to the task at hand. My role as a sports writer goes beyond writing for a couple of websites and a few publications. This is something that every sports writer who wants to a true writer must be able to differentiate and do it almost seamlessly in order to do his or her job. When trades like this go down, it just makes the job that much tougher because you are seeing a really good guy leave a really great team. Yeah it hurts but as the sports writer persona keeps saying to me, “business is business.” So how do you cope with seeing one of the good guys leave this team? Some of the older fans from the George Gervin days can help us with this one. When Gervin was traded to Chicago, I understand that the city was up in arms over the whole matter. Maybe that’s why fan favorites have rarely been traded during this team’s history. This fan base is used to seeing guys like Rose end their careers here and assimilate themselves into the city’s fabric as businessmen and community leaders. It’s doubly tough when you watch a guy like Rose establishes business ties here. That’s why my cell phone has been going off on a regular basis since the trade went down. People cannot believe that the Spurs, as an organization, would do something like that when they know how much Rose wanted to be a part of the San Antonio community and as soon as he signed that seven year deal, the first thing he did was pledge a commitment to be a part of the city’s landscape and business structure.

Maybe that’s just the problem of this whole scenario. Because Rose is another ‘good guy’ in the NBA, we are expecting a franchise like the Spurs to do whatever it takes to keep him around. While I think that the problem the Spurs have is not at the power forward position but at the center position. Ironically that is the main reason why the Spurs pulled this deal off. Nazr Muhammad is an 11 ppg, 9-reb player; something that Rasho Nesterovic hasn’t been able to be in two seasons. Yes I am saying that I believe that Rasho may be one of the highest paid ‘back up centers’ in the Western Conference. But that doesn’t quell the emptiness that many Spurs fans are going to feel for weeks to come. Their ‘guy’ is traded and they are hurting.

FANS HAVE TO REALIZE THAT BUSINESS IS ‘BUSINESS’ HERE It’s going to be a difficult time for Spurs fans and the media corps alike in this city. There isn’t a person who has covered the Spurs who didn’t like Rose and as a member of that group, I can say that I will miss him dearly. However the fans need to understand that in the quest for a championship, this team has to take care of business. That means that if a player has to leave and another player come in to make them better, that will happen. It would happen in any franchise that wants to win. Teams do it all the time and this isn’t the only city where a fan favorite was dealt. If Spurs fans want any solace in this matter just read the trade deal that went down in Boston. The Celtics got Antoine Walker back after he did a couple of pit stops in Dallas and Atlanta. These things happen all the time.

Instead of looking at the negatives of this trade, maybe fans need to realize that with the acquisition of an Eastern Conference center, the Spurs will be able to finally add that muscle they needed in the middle. With Muhammad going up against guys in the East, he can now use his skills to help the Spurs reach their goal of wining the West and ultimately another Larry O’Brien trophy. Now does that mean that the Spurs wouldn’t have done it with Rose still on the roster? Of course not. I firmly believe that the team to beat this year resides right here in San Antonio and they make their home at 1 SBC Parkway. Yet I do believe that with this new acquisition they can do some things that will make them more formidable than others.

Spurs fans remember that nobody, not even in the Spurs front office, wanted to see Rose leave. I am quite sure that Gregg Popovich had some anguish over loosing a guy that was a hard worker no matter what was the situation. Yet both Popovich and Buford also realize that they have a need that needs to be addressed right now and they did what they always do in this situation; they made sure that the guy they were sending to another team or was letting go was not only going to a place where he could play but also where he could also succeed in his career. Spurs fans don’t see that side of this business because they don’t know the true inner workings of this franchise. That’s okay because they shouldn’t know everything in the first place.

It’s okay to feel bad that this city may have lost a true ‘son’ of the community and by all accounts they have. However let’s also remember that sometimes you have to go where the job takes you. I hated to see Malik go but that doesn’t mean that he’ll be forgotten. How can he be with Malik’s Philly Phamous getting ready to open another location. While Malik the ball player may be leaving, fans should remember that Malik the businessman will still be here after the season. They also need to realize that sometimes when you are trying to win a championship, good guys like him have to be traded to make your team better. This wasn’t a foolish trade. It was business and the business that is at the hands of this organization is winning a championship.