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Free agency and changed plans

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (12) smiles in the second half against the Charlotte Bobcats during Game 4 of their NBA Eastern Conference playoff basketball series in Charlotte, North Carolina April 26, 2010 (Credit: Reuters / Jason Miczek)

For the past few weeks, NBA free agent rumors have been dominating sports headlines. From the Dwight Howard saga to the Deron Williams decision, this summer has seen a flurry of activity. Teams like the Brooklyn Nets (some of you may be thinking I just invented a new team, but no, that’s what the current New Jersey Nets will be called this season) made big splashes by signing multiple free agents and even participating in a blockbuster trade. The names change from year to year, but the process is pretty much the same. Teams have to weigh the long-term constraints of signing a player to a big contract, while the players have to decide where they want to play and if their decision will solely be based on money.

What particularly interests me about NBA free agency, though, is the way teams develop and carry out their plans. Every team, from the end of the season in June to the beginning of the process in July, develops plans that include how  much money they want to spend and who will be on their list of players to pursue. Those plans are vitally important, because when the official negotiation window opens and teams can start talking to players, trying to predict where players will land is like trying to predict where a bolt of lightning will strike in a storm.

Some teams’ plans work out perfectly. Take the aforementioned Nets. They wanted to re-rsign their best player, Deron Williams, to a long-term deal. Check. They wanted to add talent around him to bolster their chance of postseason success. Check. They pulled off a trade for Joe Johnson, a talented shooting guard. Their final plan was to make sure they fortified their frontline, and they did so by re-signing their young center Brooke Lopez. Check. While they didn’t pull off the ultimate coup and land Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, the most talented big man in the free agent pool, they still accomplished all their goals.

Other teams’ plans did not work out so perfectly. The Dallas Mavericks dismantled their 2011 championship team in hopes of landing a superstar to pair alongside an aging Dirk Nowitzki. The idea was to bring Deron Williams in so that he could team with Dirk for the remainder of Dirk’s career and take over when he retired. They pursued Williams strongly, but lost out to the Nets and thus saw their summer plans losing momentum. They next targeted several other free agent stars including Steve Nash and Jeremy Lin, but did not land them either.

Many teams have had summers like the Mavs. The thing that makes the Mavs different is that they have not abandoned their plan. Many teams, after not getting their prized player, hit the panic button and throw money at unproven or risky players in order to prove to their fans that they did something. That’s what mediocre players dream of, and what sinks the future of poorly managed teams. It’s easy for teams to get lost in the middle of free agency, forget their long-term plan, and panic.

And it’s also something that you and I do as well. Let’s face it, not many of us go through life getting everything we want and having everything work out the way we planned. The reality is that things don’t always go our way and our plans don’t always work out. Sometimes we don’t get the job we wanted, sometimes we lose a relationship that is dear to us, and sometimes it seems like nothing we do is right.

It’s in these moments of rejection, disappointment, and confusion that we have to trust in God’s plan for our lives. We have to trust that God sees the bigger picture, because we can so easily get lost in the details of our lives. One of my favorite passages to meditate on when things don’t go my way is Colossians 1:17. In this passage, Paul is declaring that Jesus is King, over our individual lives as well as the entire created universe. He says in verse 17: “and in Him all things hold together.” Jesus is the great sustainer, holding both the entire world together as well as your life and mine. We have to trust in the goodness of God and of his plan for our lives.

Sometimes our lives can seem as frenzied as the middle of NBA free agency. We don’t know what exactly is going on and we don’t know what is coming next. But in these times more than ever we have to learn to surrender to God’s will and trust in his sovereignty. He knows what he is doing. We just have to cultivate an attitude of surrender and trust, and learn to live out what the Psalmist commanded in Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”