In his annual address to the media, NBA commissioner Adam Silver took time to reflect on the first nine days of the league’s “new year,” and the start of Free Agency.
2019’s NBA Free Agency was unique for several reasons. For example, a record setting amount of guaranteed money was already handed out in contracts. But the biggest thing this Free Agency cycle will be remembered for is something Silver may want to see changed: an alarming number of deals were struck the instant Free Agency began, clearly indicating that they were reached ahead of time. Additionally, those deals focused on a small number of marquee big markets, and not on the majority of the league.
Some violations of the league’s tampering rules, like free agent player to free agent player communication, may be impossible to stop. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and DeAndre Jordan, friends since their time on Team USA, saw an opportunity to play together with the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn appealed to Durant for his nearby business ventures, and it appealed to Kyrie as the team he grew up rooting for in New Jersey. Add in that they had space for the three friends to play together? The pieces fell into place easily, and three friends putting the puzzle together is hard to regulate by any standard.
Others, believe it or not, are regulated. The Los Angeles Clippers were hit with a tempering fine for Doc Rivers plugging Kawhi Leonard’s greatness. The Los Angeles Lakers, a year ago, were hit with a similar fine for trying to get Paul George to return to his hometown. Today, Kawhi Leonard is a Clipper, and Paul George does play in Los Angeles (albeit for the other team). Whether or not the fines were warranted, the players in question did end up there.
In his press conference, commissioner Silver acted like the issues surrounding tampering and communicating ahead of time are serious. If for nothing else, having some rules “not matter” raises questions about if others do.
On the issue of the bigger NBA markets hoarding the majority of free agents, Silver stuck with the company line about continuing to have a competitive league. The NBA wants to maintain a “balance of power” while also allowing free agents true agency over their careers. To Silver’s credit, the duality is hard to maintain. Further, two of Free Agency’s biggest winners were the LA Clippers and Brooklyn Nets. While they’re in the largest cities in America, until very recently they’ve each been dwarfed in relevancy by other teams in their same towns.
But, one thing that touches on each of the aforementioned points, and may be the most frightening thing for owners moving forward, was one of Silver’s last talking points: the issue of players demanding trades. In the last six months, the NBA has seen two players with MVP type of campaigns on their resumes demand trades with more than a full season left on their contracts.
Both wanted to go to Los Angeles.
In February, Anthony Davis reportedly asked the New Orleans Pelicans to trade him to Los Angeles, then a handful of teams, and then only the Lakers, with over a year and a half left on his contract. This summer, after sitting out several games and playing limited minutes in others, Davis was traded to the LA Lakers.
Paul George and Oklahoma City signed a three-year deal, with a player option for a fourth, just a year ago. The deal was considered a major win for the small markets: one of the smallest NBA cities took in a disgruntled superstar who reportedly wanted to return to Los Angeles, had a decent year, and convinced him to resign in the town. Last weekend, George was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers after demanding it of the Thunder.
Players have, historically, given teams a headsup in the last year of their deal if they want to change teams. Theoretically, it allows the teams to get other players or assets back in return, as opposed to losing the player in Free Agency for “nothing.”
But if Anthony Davis can demand his way out of New Orleans, and Paul George can do the same in Oklahoma City, with multiple seasons left on their contracts, many small market owners and fan bases are wondering what the point of the multi-year contracts are in the first place.
Adam Silver commented that trade demands are concerning and disheartening. Further, Silver pointed out they hurt the teams, the community, and the player’s reputations.
Silver wrapped up by commenting on the changing media landscape, and how he isn’t concerned about a slight decline in ratings because of how quickly TV is changing.
As we enter the second week of the new league year it will be interesting to follow how commissioner Silver and the NBA follow up the wild summer, and if they institute any changes to how players maneuver between teams, or if they cross their fingers and hope the summer of 2019 was an anomaly.
Whatever happens, we will be watching. And it’s good to know Silver doesn’t mind if it’s not on traditional television outlets.
Chris Paul May Start Year in OKC With No Trade Imminent
When Chris Paul become a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder in a trade for Russell Westbrook last week, it was assumed that it would only be a pit stop for Paul.
As soon as the deal was done, reports were that Paul was already being shopped by Thunder GM Sam Presti, as he tried to shed payroll in preparation for a rebuild.
Unfortunately this is the worst time to try to move a significant contract, as it is near the end of the free agency and other teams have very little financial flexibility. Because of his limited market, it looks like Paul may stay in OKC for the near future.
The only team that seemed to have interest in Paul was the Miami Heat, as they look to pair a second star alongside their newest addition, Jimmy Butler.
Paul had mutual interest in playing for Miami, where his good friend Dwyane Wade called home for all those years.
Trade talks stalled though when Miami asked for their two first round picks back from the Thunder, which they acquired as part of the deal that sent Paul George to the Clippers.
Because of the Stepien Rule, which states that team’s can’t trade their first-round picks in consecutive years, the Heat can’t trade another first-rounder until 2024 at the earliest.
The Thunder own Miami’s 2021 and 2023 first-round picks, the latter of which is heavily protected. Because of those protections, the Heat also won’t be able to move another pick until that one is used by the Thunder.
So the motivation to get those picks back is obvious for Miami, as they are staring at the possibility of not being able to trade another first-round pick until 2026 when that pick becomes unprotected.
For the Thunder, trading two first-round picks would be tough to swallow as they got two first-rounders along with Paul, so in some regards using picks to get off that contract equates to them trading Westbrook for nothing.
If Paul does in fact start the season with the Thunder, you have to wonder how bad they will really be. Last year, the Thunder went 49-33 and made the playoffs.
While they lost Westbrook and Paul George, they have added Paul, Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander giving them a surprisingly solid roster to compete in the Western Conference.
Enes Kanter Already Becoming a Fan-Favorite in Boston After Taking Shot at Kyrie
The Boston Celtics announced their newest two members in a press conference today, as Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter were introduced to the media.
Walker may be the headliner, but Kanter is the type of player that offers the media great headlines, as he has always spoken his mind and is a great quote.
Well, Kanter got the whole room laughing at the press conference when he was asked why he chose to wear the No. 11.
When Kanter says that, “He wants to be the last guy to wear it,” he is referring to a quote from Kyrie Irving when he was introduced to the media a few short years ago.
At the time, Irving was still loyal to Boston and was at least articulating the notion that he would be so good that his number would one day be hanging in the rafters.
Now Kanter is wearing the No. 11 for the Celtics, while Irving is hoping to get his number up in the rafters of the Barclays Center for the Brooklyn Nets.
With Kanter’s sense of humor and hard-nosed intensity on the floor, is is sure to become a fan-favorite in Boston. If he isn’t one already.
Klutch Sports’ to Become Part of United Talent Agency’s Sports Division
Klutch Sports is the sports agency run by LeBron James’ close friend and agent Rich Paul. Klutch represents many of the best basketball players in the NBA, namely LeBron’s newest teammate Antony Davis.
Paul has been building out an impressive client list ever since leaving CAA to form his own agency back in 2012. Now his work is paying off in a big way, as Klutch is set to become part of one of the biggest talent agencies in the world.
United Talent Agency is a major player in Hollywood, representing big-name movie stars such as Kevin Hart and Angelina Jolie.
Up to this point, United Talent did not have their own sports division, so they are essentially making Klutch that division. As part of the deal, Paul will still operate Klutch under that name, but will also be the head of UTA sports.
For years the narrative around Klutch is that it was a somewhat puppet agency for LeBron, where the NBA superstar could represent his friends and wield massive power in the league, with Paul just being the face.
While it is clear that Klutch’s motives align with LeBron’s at times, such as when Davis forced his way to the Lakers, this deal is more about Paul than it is about LeBron.
One of the biggest talent agencies in the world is looking at Paul and saying they want him to be the face and voice of their sports division. Having LeBron as a client surely helps that image, but it is still one that Paul has earned on his own.
Three years ago, Phil Jackson came under fire when he referred to LeBron James’ close friends and business associates as his posse.
James argued in behalf of his friend and all the hard work they have done to become the best at what they do in their respective fields.
As we see the massive success of Paul as an agent and Maverick Carter as a producer, it is about time we give these men the credit for the success that they have earned, rather than just giving all of that to LeBron.
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