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.
Isaiah Thomas to Miss Start of the Season After Having Thumb Surgery
Since his breakout season in 2016, it has been a revolving door of injuries for Isaiah Thomas.
Thomas left the Boston Celtics after a year where he garnered MVP attention in the 2016-17 season, when he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Kyrie Irving.
A hip injury plagued his tenure with the Cavaliers, leading him to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in the middle of the season, prior to becoming a free agent the following year.
Thomas would then sign a one-year deal with the Denver Nuggets, as he tried to regain his value before heading to free agency again.
With the Nuggets, Thomas was kept off the court with injuries, before falling out of the rotation altogether by the time Denver was in the playoffs.
Now Thomas was set to get another chance to lead a backcourt, when the Washington Wizards signed him to play alongside Bradley Beal for the upcoming season.
Unfortunately Thomas cannot catch a break, as he had to undergo a thumb surgery today after getting injured in a pickup game with teammates.
Thomas will now miss the beginning of the season, as string of bad luck continues for the two-time All-Star.
Outside of DeMarcus Cousins, no one has had worse luck in the NBA when it comes to injuries then Thomas.
Hopefully he can make a fully recovery from the injury and return to have a productive season for the Wizards this year.
Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard Want to Play in 2020 Summer Olympics
The FIBA World Cup proved to be an embarrassing affair for Team USA, as the Americans were defeated for the first internationally in some time.
Team USA advanced to the quarterfinals in the tournament, before being upset and eliminated by France. From there, the Americans lost their next matchup to Serbia and ended up finishing seventh overall.
But the one thing that Team USA did accomplish in the FIBA World Cup is that by making it to the quarterfinals, they qualified to play in the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The biggest reason that Team USA struggled in the FIBA World Cup is that a majority of our best superstars chose to stay home and not play.
That likely won’t be the case for the Olympics though, as players are more motivated to compete in that event, on a stage that garners way more national attention.
The Team USA is already starting to look much deeper, as Stephen Curry has announced his interest in competing in the Olympics next summer.
Curry has never played in the Olympics, but would obviously give Team USA a great chance to take home a gold medal. Another player that has not appeared in the Olympics is Damian Lillard.
Lillard is another superstar guard that has announced his intentions to play in the upcoming Olympics, giving Team USA a great one-two scoring punch.
Lillard and Curry can make threes rain from any place on the court, giving Team USA a potent scoring backcourt like we have never seen in international play.
With all due respect to Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell, Lillard and Curry would represent a great upgrade to Team USA’s FIBA roster. Especially as they would push players like Walker and Mitchell to the bench.
Finishing seventh in the FIBA World Cup was disappointing for Team USA, but there is a great chance they rectify that in the upcoming 2020 Olympics.
Three-Time NBA Champion Shaun Livingston Announces His Retirement
Over the past five seasons, the Golden State Warriors have put together one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history, winning three championships and making five-straight appearances in the NBA Finals.
Now they are turning the page to a new era of Warriors basketball, still surrounded around their homegrown ‘Big Three’ of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green’.
But the role players from those great Warriors teams have moved on and for some, are calling it quits altogether. As Shaun Livingston just announced his retirement from the NBA.
In his farewell message, Livingston cites “the injury”, referring to a devastating knee injury that he suffered back in 2007.
The injury was so bad for Livingston, that it almost resulted in his leg being amputated it was so bad.
Livingston made a remarkable recovery from the injury and turned in a fantastic career. The last stages of his career came with the Golden State Warriors, were he proved to be an excellent backup point guard to Curry.
Without Livingston’s ability to make plays and play stout defense at 6-foot-7, the Warriors would not have been three-time champions.
Congrats to Livingston on a great career, which we never could have expected him to have back in 2007.
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