SBD/February 25, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA Trade Deadline Shows Teams Trading Players Before Losing Them In Free Agency

Williams is latest NBA player to be traded before he could explore free agency
The "usual deals transpired" ahead of Thursday's NBA trade deadline, but "another deal materialized this week: trading a key player with an uncertain future for considerable assets," according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. Teams "took control," as the Jazz traded Deron Williams, the Nuggets traded Carmelo Anthony and the Celtics traded Kendrick Perkins. The NBA "wants more competitive balance," and that issue is "being addressed in collective bargaining talks." But until that is resolved, it is "not surprising some teams did what they thought was necessary" (USA TODAY, 2/25). The AP's Lynn DeBruin wondered, "Is there something the NBA should do to protect teams from losing their star players?" Jazz CEO Greg Miller: "This is a relatively recent phenomenon, but one that I believe is being watched very closely. ... I'm not interested in seeing a congregation of star players on a handful of teams throughout the league. I don't think it does the teams any good. It doesn't do the fans any good. It doesn't do the sponsors any good. I would like to see as much parity as there can be in the league" (AP, 2/24). In Milwaukee, Charles Gardner asks, "Can the Milwaukee Bucks and other medium to small-market NBA teams truly compete in a star-driven league?" Bucks GM John Hammond said, "We've always said our greatest opportunity to get a star player is through the draft." Gardner notes there are "other avenues for obtaining stars, but the big-market teams have certain advantages." Hammond: "We're not in the minority (of NBA teams); we're in the majority. You have to stay healthy, the team needs to jell and have cohesiveness, all of that" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/25).

TRADES REVEAL BROKEN SYSTEM: SI.com's Ian Thomsen wrote the Jazz trading Williams to the Nets "highlights, underlines and altogether exposes everything that most of the owners have grown to hate about the current system." Thomsen: "Frustrated owners are going to have their say at the bargaining table, and the players aren't going to like the potential solutions: A hard salary cap, a franchise tag, salary rollbacks that may unduly affect the richest players." The "imbalance of talent has made the league extremely popular," but it also has "made a majority of the owners extremely miserable, because the league is growing popular at their expense." Thomsen: "A new era of parity will come forth" (SI.com, 2/24). The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair wrote under the header, "Convoluted Salary Cap Killing The NBA." The "more convoluted the salary cap and structure of contracts, the more agents become involved in the process." And the more that happens, the "more power goes to the players" and the "more behind-the-scenes manoeuvering takes place." There are rumblings that Anthony's trade to the Knicks "will be the impetus for small-market teams to stand up and demand a hard salary cap or maybe even the use of a 'franchise-player' designation." NBA Commissioner David Stern "needs to become a genius once again, because his league is already the most predictable in North American professional sports" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/24).

TIME FOR A CHANGE: FOXSPORTS.com's Jason Whitlock writes under the header, "NBA Players Are Wrecking Their League." The players "have dramatically reshaped the league with their free-agent and impending free-agent maneuvers. In doing so -- in destroying basketball in Cleveland, Utah and Denver -- LeBron, Melo, Amar'e and Deron reinforced the perception among fans that teams don't matter." Whitlock: "As the NBA heads for labor unrest in an attempt to negotiate a new collective-bargaining agreement, Stern and the owners should be super aggressive in addressing this fundamental problem" (FOXSPORTS.com, 2/25). USA TODAY's Mike Lopresti wrote, "There are still 30 teams in the league, right? It's a little hard to remember because of how the NBA pecking order now works. A half dozen glittering franchises are put on the marquee with all the featured pianists, and everyone else is the warm-up act with kazoos." The NBA, "more than any other team sport, pushes individual prowess in a few strategic places over group effort," and the league "has gotten precisely what it has asked for: popularity from well-placed superstars." The "cost to the have-nots of the league is another matter" (USATODAY.com, 2/24). ESPN.com's Rick Reilly wrote, "This is what the NBA has become: very tall, very rich twenty-somethings running the league from the backs of limos, colluding so that the best players gang up on the worst. To hell with the Denvers, the Clevelands, the Torontos. If you aren't a city with a direct flight to Paris, we're leaving." Reilly added, "Hello, David Stern? Did you leave a wake-up call for the 21st century? Your clubs need to be able to protect their great players with a franchise tag, as the NFL does. If that isn't priority No. 1 in your lockout talks, you need the Wite-Out. ... The NFL finds a way to let cities that don't happen to have a Versace store hang on to their great players" (ESPN.com, 2/23).

IS A LOCKOUT NECESSARY? CBSSPORTS.com's Gregg Doyel wrote NBA owners "have to lock out the players." Doyel: "I'm sorry, but I don't see any way around it. ... For the long-term good of the game." The Anthony trade "did demonstrate just how broken the NBA could get, how irrelevant three-fourths of the franchises could become without a major adjustment to league rules." Even with a salary cap, the NBA is "looking more like cap-free Major League Baseball than the hard-capped NFL." Doyel: "As Carmelo Anthony reminded us, stars want to play with other stars. A humbled city still has a shot at a franchise-altering superstar in the draft, but as soon as it's feasible, that star is gone" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/24).

DON'T JUMP YET: In Boston, Bob Ryan wrote, "Are things really as dire as they seem in David Stern's league? What happened in Denver is something that happens every year in baseball and basketball. Star X will become a free agent at the conclusion of the season and has made it known to current management that he wants to move on. ... Afraid of losing him with no compensation, the team is forced into a trade posture." After LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade on the Heat last summer, it is "not possible for NBA folk to view the Anthony deal in isolation." There is "no guarantee that Superteam Triumvirate II will ever become assembled, but owners are nervous regardless." Ryan: "It is far more likely we have already seen the one and only power alliance we will ever know than it is we will see three, four, five or 10 more. That's not the threat" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/24). SPORTING NEWS TODAY's Sean Deveney writes the NBA "has never been about parity, and the league does not thrive on an anyone-can-win-a-title platform." The "peak eras of the league were the 1990s with Michael Jordan's Bulls and the 1980s with the Celtics and Lakers dominating." Of the 64 championships won in league history, 42 of them "belong to four franchises" (SPORTING NEWS TODAY, 2/25).
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