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Point/Counterpoint: A Rule Against Trade Demands?
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On August 2, 2012 @ 12:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
In the NBA, players are not permitted to demand a trade in the press. It’s a fineable offense, but that hasn’t stopped upcoming free agents from holding their team hostage and dictating where they’re going to land by refusing to commit long-term to certain teams. Even though the information isn’t coming directly from the player, the message is sent by an agent or “source close to the player.”
Is it time for the NBA to put some kind of “Dwight Howard-Carmelo Anthony” rule in place to head off what’s been happening around the league? Players are killing their own trade value and we get year-long soap operas as a result. What should the NBA do? Is a new rule needed? Is NBA commissioner David Stern right about the fact the rumors drive interest and are therefor a good thing?
HOOPSWORLD’s Lang Greene and Joel Brigham break it down:
Lang Greene: This is the age of instant information, where anything and everything you’re looking for is only a couple clicks of the mouse away from appearing on your computer screen. Like it, love it or loathe it, this is the world we inhabit. Instead of forcefully trying to implement even more red tape on the flow of news available, we should be actively seeking additional methods to further open the data stream and improve the current system rather than trying to restrict it.
When it comes to basketball writing, nothing, and that means absolutely nothing, moves the needle and jump starts the conversation amongst fans more than free agency and trade talk.
Coaching changes, injury news, triumphant player comebacks, playoff talk, winning streaks and the rare fifty-point game all fall far short of the interest free agency and trade rumors generate.
The sheer number of trade rumors in any given season serve as a vehicle for keeping the National Basketball Association relevant during the winter months leading up to the annual trade deadline, when the National Football League is dominating the sports landscape. The yearly draft and summer free agency rumor mill serve a similar role for the league and keep the fans of their respective franchises invested in the offseason.
Think about this for a moment. Over the past two years, the following stories revolving free agency and trade rumors have reigned supreme on the national landscape as it relates to NBA news:
- Summer of 2010 free agency class, headed by LeBron James who used a primetime show to issue his “decision” to join the Miami HEAT.
- Carmelo Anthony’s impending free agency, trade rumors and finally the deal which shipped him to the New York Knicks.
- Chris Paul’s same journey, which mirrored Anthony’s and ultimately landed him with the emerging Los Angeles Clippers.
- Dwight Howard’s current free agency saga, which is coming up on a year of more twists and turns than a Hollywood thriller.
Do you realize over the past twenty years only nine NBA franchises have won a championship? The current system gives fans of every NBA franchise hope each season, despite the numbers, that their general management team can potentially land a star of the future.
In fact, the current system is exactly what NBA commissioner David Stern wants.
“To me, it is the soap opera our fans turn in for – the drama on the court and the drama off the court,” Stern said in a recent USA Today feature. “When we cease to have a story popping up, we probably won’t exist. I think what it is, is that that’s the way we are. That’s the way it has been in baseball and the NFL and hockey and basketball. And frankly, it engages our fans, it engages our reporters, it engages our bloggers. It makes people happy, mad, sad. It’s just the life in sports.”
Yes, the drama surrounding guys like James, Anthony, Paul and Howard can get a bit overwhelming and downright frustrating at times. But at the end of the day it’s like the fender bender on your rush hour commute home, where everyone is aggravated sitting through it but somehow manage to slow down enough once they get near the wreck to observe and report the damage to a friend later in the evening.
People want to hear about free agency classes and love to dream up fantasy scenarios three years down the road. People love to create complex six-team trade proposals in the hope of landing their team a star. It’s the drama, the love of the game and a genuine interest in the sport creating this news environment. Why go against the grain of customer demand? There’s no need to do so.
Joel Brigham: About eight months ago, pretty much right after the lockout was lifted, HOOPSWORLD’s traffic exploded. It had quite a bit to do with the fact that basketball was back, but the numbers were so much higher than usual for two reasons: Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.
At that point in time, readers couldn’t get enough information about where either player might be traded. Paul, of course, ended up in L.A. (twice, technically), but the Dwightmare has been going on for almost a year at this point. All that interest that once clumped around Howard like tweens to Bieber has since dissipated. For the most part, we’re all pretty bored by the drama at this point. Trade the guy, already. We almost don’t even care where.
But the real conundrum here isn’t about where Howard ends up; it’s about how the entire process has been handled. Players can’t publicly demand a trade through the press as a rule. In fact, they’ll get fined for it. Yet some people (read, “agents”) are getting the message out anyhow, with the crippling caveat that the unhappy players will only sign an extension with a short list of teams. In Dwight Howard’s case, Brooklyn. In Carmelo Anthony’s case eighteen months ago, New York.
If a player has three years left on his deal and wants to be traded, there’s not much leverage to say, “I’ll only play for the Lakers.” Both teams can say, “Sorry, champ, but this is a business and you’ll play for the team that pays you that contract.”
In the last year of a contract, however, a superstar can completely handcuff a team by making a backdoor trade request with a wish list. How many teams would throw fifty percent of the talent on their roster at Orlando right now if Howard was sure to re-sign? The kind of kitchen sink deals Houston is offering would be coming from teams with kitchen sinks the Magic were actually interested in.
But this kind of trade request kills the player’s value. If Howard says he’ll only play in Brooklyn long-term, nobody is going to offer anything of value. But Orlando has to trade the guy because if they don’t, he’ll walk away and leave them with nothing. The same thing happened with Anthony and the Knicks, and the same thing will happen again if the NBA doesn’t find a way to curtail this kind of nonsense.
The question is not only, “What can the league do?” but also, “Does the league even want to do anything about it.” The answer to the second question has already been nailed down as a resounding, “Nope,” as evidenced by the recent comments by Stern.
So nothing is going to change along these lines because it creates interest in the game. And that’s true, until eight months go by without a resolution and everybody who follows basketball professionally is just about ready to puke every time they see a picture of Dwight Howard on Sportscenter.
Again, the question, “What can the league do?”
Unfortunately, not a lot. There’s no fair way to fine players for the actions of their agents, and there will always be reporters that will find some way to siphon out these trade requests. Stories will still break, and they will be “according to sources,” and the star players who did the requesting will deny the reports’ veracity. That won’t change the fact that the story will have gotten out there, the trade request will find its way to the organization’s higher-ups and if we’re talking about an expiring deal, the wish list probably won’t be too far behind.
One idea, however unlikely, is to put into play an official process for trade demands. If a player wishes to be traded in the final year of his contract, he has to sign an official trade demand with the team. If a wish list is going to be included, at least five teams would have to appear on the list. The trick here is that the player who requested the trade in a contract year would then be forced to sign some kind of an extension with one of the five teams he dictated as part of the trade.
That takes away the player’s collectively bargained right to free agency, but if things have gotten so bad with a franchise that the player couldn’t wait it out one more season, clearly getting a new deal with a more desirable team would be preferable. The player’s current team could get up to five reasonable offers rather than one or two, and the new team wouldn’t have to worry about getting a guy on a one-year rental.
But that wouldn’t stop the “unofficial” trade request and wish lists. If players refused to sign the request or name five teams, he could still hold the team hostage.
In other words, there isn’t a solution, mostly because one doesn’t appear to exist. Superstars have too much power, and fans, reporters and bloggers apparently love this kind of drama too much to kiss it goodbye. It’s not fair, but neither are a lot of other things.
At least the NBA is generating a lot of interest out of it.
What do you think? Should the NBA step in to end the drama that seems to grow with each new free agent, or leave the system alone? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below!
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