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Volume 26 No. 60
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Offseason Moves Show Power Players Hold In Shaping NBA Landscape

Leonard's move to the Clippers helped create another possible title team in L.A. this season
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Kawhi Leonard leaving the Raptors for the Clippers and bringing Paul George with him is the “ultimate power play in the player empowerment movement,” according to Jonathan Feigen of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Leonard joins Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Anthony Davis as the "godfathers of player empowerment” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/7). THE ATHLETIC’s Sam Amick wrote this is a “new kind of free agency in the NBA, where even players who have several years left on their contracts can be on the move if they decide to leverage their unhappiness and target their next landing spot” (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/6). This is a “star-oriented league, and they get what they want, more often than not” (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/6). In Salt Lake City, Gordon Monson wrote star players "most definitely" have the most power in the NBA. If a top player demands a trade, teams are "pretty much compelled to comply on account that no team can use a great player who doesn't want to be there" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 7/6). In Indianapolis, Gregg Doyel wrote the “biggest NBA stars have demonstrated just how powerful they are.” What is happening around the league is "beautiful for a handful of players, but it’s a plague for everyone else” (INDYSTAR.com, 7/6).

RESTRICTED INFLUENCE: THE ATHLETIC's Eric Koreen wrote moves orchestrated by players bring into "question how much value any executive can really have, so long as the players are calling the biggest shots" (THEATHLETIC.com 7/6). The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly wrote Leonard has “revealed himself as the cleverest operator in sport.” Leonard “wanted a team built to his precise specifications, and he just got one.” That “makes him more powerful than any general manager and most team owners” (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/6).

IN A POSITIVE LIGHT: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Ben Cohen wrote the offseason moves reflect the "new reality of the modern NBA: The most talented players want to play for the most competent teams” (WSJ.com, 7/6). SPORTSNET.ca’s Donnovan Bennett wrote, “The player-empowerment era’s movement has been a true meritocracy, where the organizations that exhibit a positive culture and shrewd business decisions are coming out on top” (SPORTSNET.ca, 7/7). In N.Y., Marc Stein writes Leonard and George joining the Clippers is the "latest reminder that the biggest names in this game wield a level of team-building influence seen in no other major North American sports league" (NYTIMES.com, 7/8).

POSSIBLE BACKLASH: In L.A., Dylan Hernandez writes the "instinct of many NBA owners and front offices will be to curtail the power of the players." Hernandez: "Attempts to limit player influence will be made under the guise of concern for the league, the assumption being that management knows better how to package its product for consumers. Except management doesn't know better" (L.A. TIMES, 7/8). The UNDEFEATED's Marc Spears wrote owners and team execs are "certainly on notice about how star players are controlling their own destiny" (THEUNDEFEATED.com, 7/7). In Minneapolis, Michael Rand writes a player-driven league is "empowering in many good ways, but it is starting to feel like the lever has been pulled too far in one direction in terms of competitive balance" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/8).