“Trade me,” “I’m not resigning,” and reception of word that a player is “prepared to leave if not moved by the trading deadline” have been themes from star players like Jimmy Butler, Anthony Davis, and Kristaps Porzingis in this 2018-2019 NBA campaign. With player empowerment on the rise for the NBA’s elite and the trade deadline recently passing on February 7, you can rest assured that league executives and team owners are taking notice while strategizing on how to navigate a star players demands to be moved.
As these ultimatums occur more and more often, frustration is definitely brewing those in positions of power around the league in their ability to develop a sustainable team for the foreseeable future and dodging the feeling of being bamboozled or muscled by a player that does not want to fulfill their contractual obligation.
With this league-wide phenomenon unfolding with each season and every opportunity that a team misses acquiring a star player to pair with another star, there is an obvious catch twenty-two. Considering that the day of free agency is in full bloom and the era of one player having an allegiance to a team is long gone, movement is no surprise to higher-ups. It is clear that teams prepare for player movement, as the desire grows for players to play on a legit squad to compete for a championship, combat super teams, and do more than just get buckets on a trash team while knowing they are wasting their talent in the grand scheme of things.
So, on one hand, you have a player giving a team a courtesy heads up that they have no intention of resigning with the current team they play for. This obviously gives a team an opportunity to trade them so that the team may get some decent ballers in return before the star player can exercise their right to free agency, like when Paul George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder during the summer of 2017 with 1 year left on his contract.
On the other hand, you have the scenario where a player voices their lack of intention to resign, seeks a trade, or vocalizes displeasure with the team well before the expiration of their contract, which puts a team, franchise, and fan base in an awkward circumstance. Let alone placing the season six-feet into a grave.
Think A.D. and the New Orleans Pelicans right now. It’s pretty much like a couple that’s broken up but still living in the same home. The fans are booing a five-star player when they know they really don’t mean it, while still wanting their team to return to playoff form. And to add to the dysfunction, the players know he’s not invested in the team but still respect his ability to punch anybody’s shot, shake defenders out of their shoes on the post, and take a rebound to dance with the ball coast-to-coast for a jam that nobody would dare to try to block. Nonetheless, as far as this season goes, the Pelicans organization knows they’re in a tough spot and that the season is a lost cause. And to top off the cake of an unsatisfied player, the team will have to field distracting attention surrounding Davis’ desires to leave the team rather than focusing on winning basketball games. Combine that mess of a tornado, you can bet your bottom dollar that the other teams have taken notice.
With that in mind, do not be surprised if various owners begin to push or entertain the idea of including a contractual clause within the Uniform Player Contract identified within the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). This clause could trigger financial penalties in the rare events as described above and other scenarios that owners foresee. Of course, this would apply to a caliber of player that is performing at a certain level rather than a bench warmer that may have their wishes met and the franchise remains intact. When the CBA is renegotiated after it expires on June 30, 2024, anticipate some healthy discussion regarding the possible partial forfeiture of salary due to a trade demand. To ensure that players are dead serious about wielding their star status to influence movement to another team which has the potential to cripple or significantly harm a team, the following scenarios may be explored by NBA owners:
- Partial forfeiture of salary as a result of seeking (directly or indirectly) or significantly influencing a trade before at least 18 months prior to the expiration of team/player contract. (To prevent the painful product that the Pelicans are currently delivering, with A.D. under contract until the summer of 2020. Oh yeah, they lost by 30 points to the 26-32 Orlando Magic on February 12th and AD only had 3 pts)
- Partial forfeiture of salary for intentionally and/or maliciously making a workplace undesirable for current players and/or unattractive for prospective free agents. (Think how Butler’s early season trade drama can be interpreted in Minnesota or Porzingis’ stance with the Knicks can impact a team’s short and long-term objectives.)
Now, these terms, salary amounts to be forfeited, and circumstances would have to be defined in greater detail. Additionally, with the increasing scenarios of trade requests around the league having subjective elements to them, a type of governing board may be required in order to make these pocket crunching salary forfeitures. On top of that, these forfeitures would have to be agreed upon between the National Basketball Players Association and the NBA (30 team owners and the commissioner, Adam Silver) to actually take effect. But at the end of the day, any team is going to respond to the upcoming CBA negotiation in their best interest business considering more players are being paid in excess of one-hundred million dollars. And we all know, business’ aim to capitalize on their investment. The next couple of years should be interesting, as the evolution of the trade demand continues.