The NBA is run by players….and there’s nothing wrong with that
The NBA serves as an example of a league where the players rule and it has created chaos and success.
2019 NBA Free Agency featured big names like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Kawhi Leonard switching teams and signing big deals. In the case of Leonard, he was able to orchestrate a trade where the Los Angeles Clippers acquired star forward Paul George the same night Leonard signed with LA. For many, the fact that a player was able to pull off a move like that was disgraceful. Well for those who feel that way….
What are you, new? This is the NBA.
After the events of the last two weeks, NBA commissioner Adam Silver commented during a press conference on Tuesday that the league will need to change free agency and attempt to stop tampering. He also discussed players, like Anthony Davis and others, requesting trades while still under contract.
“[Trade demands] are disheartening to the team, they’re disheartening to the community, and they don’t serve the player well,” Silver said. “That’s an issue that needs to be addressed, and there’s not a simple solution there. Players have leverage and economic power of their own. But that’s what collective bargaining agreements are for — to sit down and come up with a set of rules that are sensible and fair for everyone.”
While the idea of requesting a trade to a more preferred location is ethically questionable, this is where the NBA is in 2019. The players are in control more than ever, and the owners are well aware of it. At this point, the job of owners is to accommodate players and get the most for them. In today’s NBA, the players have the power, and they have no problem flexing that power. Here are some examples:
* Kawhi Leonard, tired of winning championships, deserted San Antonio and forced the Spurs to trade him. While the Spurs struggled, Leonard carried the Raptors to their first World Championship this past season.
* Kyrie Irving, playing in the shadow of LeBron James, forced his way out of Cleveland to Boston. The result was an injury-plagued first season and a second season where he alienated teammates.
* Jimmy Butler famously forced his way out of Minnesota and was acquired by the 76ers this past season. Butler, known for erratic behavior, joined Philadelphia and reportedly had issues with coach Brett Brown. He now takes his act to South Beach after signing with the Heat.
* Anthony Davis midway through last season requested a trade to the Lakers to join LeBron James. The deal did not occur until after the season, but Davis was persona non-grata in New Orleans after the request.
Those are just a couple of examples of players forcing trades. Add in Chris Paul (NO to Clippers, Rockets to Thunder), Carmelo Anthony (Nuggets to Knicks) and Dwight Howard (Magic to Lakers) and you have years of players requesting to be moved. It has become almost a rite of passage for big-name players to ask for an early exit from a team.
The NBA is arguably the most popular sports league in the county and possibly around the world. The popularity as resulted in increased rights fees for the league and huge contracts for the players. The problem with increased demand is that the power shifts to either the owners or the players. In the case of the NBA, the power has completely shifted in favor of the players. While it’s not a bad thing, the owners and Silver must realize that the genie is out of the bottle and it cannot be put back in.
There is no way to stop players from talking to one another about teaming up. There are tampering rules for teams (Magic Johnson was fined for discussing players as president of the Lakers). In that case, rules are needed to make sure that organizations are not discussing offseason plans in March. However, when it comes to the players, they have to accept that players angling for superteams is a thing now. Players have and will continue to dictate where they want to play and whom they want to play alongside. The league and those in charge will have to adjust and just let it continue.
There is nothing with how things are going in the NBA. Players change teams every year, and it is creating amazing storylines every season. Will the Lakers succeed with Anthony Davis and LeBron James? How will James Harden and Russell Westbrook coexist in Houston? Can Kyrie Irving remain sane in Brooklyn? The storylines and angles create a buzz that many other leagues cannot match.
So Adam Silver… just let it go. While it is annoying at times and aggravating for your small market teams, this is overall good for business. It’s the new way of doing things, and it is making the league the envy of other sports.