The Mobley Story on Outside the Lines

It's been linked on TrueHoop and ClipperBlog already, and citizen swamigusto has created a FanShot of it here as well, but if you haven't watched it yet you may be interested in the story ESPN's Outside the Lines did on Cat Mobley's retirement.

OTL: Mobley's Life-Threatening Condition (via ESPN)


Maybe it's me, maybe I'm just too deeply immersed in all of this stuff, but did anyone else find OTL's sensationalistic tone on this story completely misplaced?

I'm not entirely convinced there's much of a story here at all.  I mean, beyond the "Cuttino Mobley retired because of a heart condition" thing.  Henry called it "Very interesting indeed" but I don't really agree.  OTL seems to be trying to stir up some sort of controversy with a 60 Minutes style investigative report into "Who knew what and when did they know it?" but is any of that really at issue?  Obviously I follow Clipper news more closely than most people, but all of the interviews and search of medical records didn't really reveal anything I didn't already know, with the exception that teams had Mobley sign waivers, which doesn't really seem like a bombshell to me.  The terms may have changed some (he had actually been diagnosed with HCM in Houston as opposed to some other heart condition) but the basic facts of the matter remain exactly as I understood them back in November.

The Larry Coon interviews, in which our favorite salary cap expert 'discloses' that the Knicks made the trade primarily to clear cap space for 2010 and that Mobley's ability or inability to actually play basketball was immaterial, is laughable in it's faux-exposé quality.  Coon must have wanted to just say 'duh' and I'm surprised he made it through the explanation with a straight face.  It has the air of a Christopher Guest mockumentary.  I mean, how could I have been so naive?  Why didn't I realize at the time that the Knicks were only making the trade for 2010 salary cap purposes?  Oh, wait, I did.  Me and everybody else.  And by the way, it was neither surprising nor controversial.

I remember the first time I realized that a team had traded for an injured player, and in so doing had dispensed with the pretense that the trade had anything to do with basketball.  Terrell Brandon played the final game of his outstanding NBA career on February 4th, 2002.  A year and a half later, in late July of 2003, he was acquired by the Hawks as part of a four team trade in which Atlanta rid themselves of Glenn Robinson (who I guess they considered a big dog).  Brandon, for all intents and purposes, had been retired for 18 months, and no one pretended that he would ever play again.  But he was in the final year of his contract, and the trade worked under salary cap rules.  I was pretty surprised at the time - all NBA trades changed irrevocably for me that day.  But that was six years ago - I'm over it.  To imply that this is anything other than NBA business-as-usual is worse than Captain Renault in Casablanca ("I am shocked - shocked - to find out that the Knicks are only interested in clearing cap space to sign LeBron James!") 

You want to do an exposé on fishy salary cap hijinks?  How about the inclusion of Keith Van Horn in the Jason Kidd trade?  How about the inclusion of Aaron McKie in the Pau Gasol trade?  The NBA said at the time that they would only allow those trades if the teams were really serious about acquiring those players.  Give me a break.  Did either of them ever attend a practice for their new teams?  Where's an investigative reporter when you need one?

Were the Knicks being opportunistic?  Did they perceive a chance to save some money, either a lot with a medical retirement or less through an insurance payment, by going forward with the trade if they played their cards just right?  Sure.  Were they being disingenuous to suggest that there motives were purely altruistic?  Of course.  Again, let's not feign surprise - it's OK.  "Here are your winnings, Captain Renault."

On the medical exposé side of things, the investigators seem to be trying to make a distinction between the term "life threatening" and the term "sudden death."  Meh.  The doctor in Houston told Cat that the condition was "life threatening" but didn't use the term "sudden death."  Um... OK.  Did he think that the threat to his life was slow?  That he would die eventually?  Well, we're all going to die eventually, aren't we? 

In the end, the story probably hinged on the question, "Why now?"  If Cat knew he had HCM, if he knew he was at risk, why did he play 11 seasons, and then decide to retire at this point?  But Isn't that one of those questions that answers itself?  He'd played 11 seasons.  He's 33.  He has a kid.  It seems obvious to me that the difference between Cat Mobley in 1998 in Houston and Cat Mobley in 2008 in New York has much more to do with Cat the person than Cat the HCM sufferer.  He's getting paid, regardless.  He's not emotionally invested in the Knicks.  He's unlikely to continue playing after this contract is up, at the age of 35.  Other than leaving a game he loved, there was really no downside to retiring last November.  It was a clean break, and obviously the Knicks weren't sad to see him retire since it saved them some money. 

Cat Mobley had a terrific career and was a big part of the greatest Clippers season ever.  That's the story here, and it's a good story.

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