Thursday, 24 January 2019 00:45

The Art of Progress

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"The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order."
— Alfred North Whitehead, 1929

KANSAS CITY, MO (AP) — In news that stunned some and surprised many, the Kansas City Pioneers announced today that they have traded their longtime starting backcourt of 2-time All Star and 2021 Playoff MVP Darell Edwards and 4-time All Star and 2021 OBWL MVP Colby Allan. As part of a three-team blockbuster, Edwards has been sent to the Honolulu Inferno and Allan moves to the London Knights. In return the Pioneers will receive 2-time All Star center Richard Hardee, G/F Mack Lavoie, and PG Nelson Jones.

Pioneers GM and President of Basketball Operations Ben Johnson met with the press to answer questions about the trade. Johnson began the presser with a prepared statement.

"First of all, let me begin by extending my sincere thanks and appreciation to both Darell and Colby. Both players have been a huge part of our program here in Kansas City and have given us so much as outstanding leaders on and off the court. We thank them both for all that they've done and wish them the best as they begin new chapters in their basketball story" said Johnson.

"It's very difficult to trade two guys of such high quality in terms of character as well as competitors. Darell was my first draft pick as general manager here in KC and for 10 seasons he was the only floor general we have ever known. I have always been demanding of my team's point guards wherever I have worked and that is because I believe that position carries the greatest responsibility out on the court. Darell took the reins as a rookie and accepted that responsibility with a maturity beyond his years."

"For a decade I have never had to worry about that position and frankly never could imagine another guy playing that position for us. In many ways, I still can't imagine it. We will never be able to replace Darell Edwards, we can only hope some player comes along and makes that position his own, in his own way, just as Darell did it his own way when he first arrived in KC."

"We could not have won a championship without Colby Allan by Darell's side. Colby had the difficult task of replacing a legend in Rudy Akamine and he did it not by trying to 'be' Rudy but by being the best Colby Allan he could be. In 2021, Colby put together an MVP season scoring and passing and elevating not just himself but his teammates as well. Colby was the rare superstar who played so well within the team concept. He almost always made the correct basketball play, whether that was calling his own number, or setting up his teammates, or simply knowing when to take a step back and let others make the plays. He'll always be remembered as the man who delivered a Heikkinen Cup to this organization and to our great fans."

Johnson then opened the floor to reporter's questions.

"Ben, the team is coming off its third straight 60+ win season. Many of your fans are wondering tonight 'why fix something if it isn't broken?' What do you have to say to those fans, who wonder if this is an overreaction to the team's unexpected first round exit in the playoffs?"

Said Johnson: "Good question. And I'm afraid I don't have an easy answer for it. There were a lot of factors involved. I can say this is not just a direct response to the loss in the playoffs to the Invaders. The Invaders were a much better team than their regular season record showed, mostly due to injuries. They were at more or less full strength when we faced them. We knew going in that we'd have to play our best to win that series and quite simply we didn't play well. So from a talent standpoint I feel like obviously we still had the goods. The larger concern is why the execution wasn't there."

"Ever since Dontae Grant retired after we won it all in 2021, I've had this feeling we were living on borrowed time — so to speak. The last three seasons have been tough. As a unit the team has pushed itself night in and night out to maintain that championship level. After a decade of very successful regular seasons, deep runs in the playoffs, a championship, wringing as much additional help as we could out of veterans on minimum contracts... it just felt like maybe now was the time for change."

"We've prided ourselves for a long time on actively maintaining continuity in the organization. But time is undefeated and I think after a while a team just becomes mentally and physically exhausted. I think at those times you need a change. Whether it's a fresh voice in the front office or the coaching staff, or bringing in new players and saying goodbye to old ones, there inevitably comes a point where change really is the best thing for everyone."

"So trading Darell and Colby is some sort of attempt to reboot the culture around the Pioneers?"

"No, absolutely not. That's why this is hard to explain. Darell and Colby were not a problem. Not on the court or off the court. Let me be clear: this was a basketball decision. At the end of the day, I feel we have a better roster after this trade than we did before it. Following the end of our season we felt our top priority was upgrading our interior. Like I said earlier, ever since Dontae retired we'd gotten by with Andrew Sutton in the middle and paired with veterans like Erik Thompson, Tony Jimenez, and Austin Alexander on one year contracts."

"Those guys put in tremendous work but we felt like this was an area we needed to address more aggressively. With Dontae gone the team had become very wing-heavy. We felt like we had a bit of a logjam at the perimeter positions and really needed to re-balance the roster in order to compete at the highest level."

"According to league sources, very few GMs had any idea that Edwards and Allan were available. So how did this huge trade come together?"

"In our opinion Richard Hardee is one the best big men in the OBWL. And as perhaps the only high caliber big man who was actually available this offseason, he wasn't going to come cheap. As you may have noticed, you have to give something up in order to get something in this league (chuckles weakly)."

"In this case, the price was expiring salary and draft picks. Unfortunately we've never had the luxury of structuring our payroll in such a way that we had $14 million in expiring money invested in players who are not an integral part of our rotation. Darell's contract has this year and then a team option for next year. That gives the Inferno a lot of flexibility. He's effectively expiring salary that they can also move to another team easily for more picks or prospects."

"We also had an offer on the table from the Knights that involved Mack Lavoie and two firsts in exchange for Colby Allan. As the saying around the league goes 'Pioneers 1st round picks are worthless' — or so I've been told — so in order to get a deal done for Hardee we were going to have to go with volume over perceived quality. It was going to take Edwards and four 1sts, including the Knights also-supposedly worthless picks to make it happen."

"So that's the decision we had to make as an organization. Send out Darell and Colby essentially in return for an All Star big, an All Star wing, and a promising young point guard we like quite a bit. Ultimately my thinking was this: If we are to the point that we are considering moving a player like Darell Edwards in the hopes of re-balancing our team, then I guess no one really is untouchable now. We agonized and analyzed it for weeks and in the end we decided that we feel that Lavoie is a different but equally talented player as Colby Allan."

"Lavoie hasn't been that kind of 'alpha dog' player that Colby has been, and we don't really expect that. If anyone is going to replace that quality on our team, it's probably going to be Mark Marble. But Lavoie brings great defense, positional versatility, and underrated offense. We're hoping that he — really, all three players we received — will bring some fresh qualities to the team and give us a lift heading into the season."

"For those reasons we decided... I decided... to make this trade. I've talked to everyone involved, the coaches, the players, and I think we're all excited about a new direction for Pioneers basketball. I know a lot of fans are feeling sad and disappointed, maybe even angry. I'm a little sad too. But I know one thing for sure and that's that change is inevitable. We've put it off for a long time but it was always coming. I think it was time to make a change for the better while we could still make the decision for ourselves, rather than have it forced on us."

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