The Golden State Warriors signing Kevin Durant in free agency pissed off almost the entire league, from players to fans. Turns out, commissioner Adam Silver wasn’t too happy about the decision one of the league’s biggest stars made either.
Speaking to the press after the league’s annual board of governors meeting, Silver made it quite clear he didn’t think it’s in the best interest of the league to have stars combine together on the same team.
Just to be absolutely clear, I do not think that’s ideal from the league standpoint. For me, part of it is designing a collective bargaining agreement that encourages the distribution of great players throughout the league. On the other hand, I absolutely respect a player’s right to become a free agent and in this case for Kevin Durant to make a decision that he feels is best for him. I have no idea what’s in his mind or heart in terms of how he went about making that decision.
Silver, and everyone else complaining about this union, have a point in that the goal, at least on the outside, is parity, and for the league’s stars to distribute themselves among as many teams as possible, and not remain on one team, creating super teams and Big Threes, Fours and Fives. But it does help sell the angle of a villain to the world, which might make it boring at times during the regular season, but everyone knows the real fun begins in the playoff. And these last playoffs were very fun.
One thing it does emphasize is the current CBA not preventing teams from assembling more talent than some owners would like to see. It’s less about money, and more about restrictions. The best way to prevent this from happening is to lift the individual caps on max salaries, but it’s hard to believe the owners will like that. The players union? They’ll like it, although it helps out an elite few instead of the current situation, when second and third tier players make a lot more money compared to if guys like LeBron James were making according to their actual market value.
We all knew all this money was going to come into the system and many of these things could have happened. The fact that it’s now in front of us and we’re looking at how the money is being paid out and we see a particular player move, yes, without suggesting I’m negotiating, there’s no question that those are things that will be discussed in future meetings with the players’ association. My sense is some of the player movement we just saw isn’t necessarily a function of market size. It’s clearly a case of one particular player’s desire to be in a situation with a group of players that all have already proven that they can win a championship. By the way, I don’t mean to be so cryptic. In the case of Kevin Durant, I absolutely respect his decision, once he becomes a free agent, to make a choice that’s available to him. In this particular case, he operated 100 percent within the way of the system, and the same with Golden State.
Don’t be surprised if one of the sides opts out of the next CBA a year before it expires. Don’t be surprised if we have another strike. The NBPA refused to have any smoothing which would have made the jump between salary caps a little more modest. The players won’t believe any claims about teams losing money now, considering how much of it is coming through the new TV deals. It’s going to be as ugly as before, and Silver very quickly might lose his image as a knight in shining armor, and begin to look more and more like David Stern was perceived.
Is there actually a way to prevent superteams? Not really, not without hurting the league in another way, disrupting its balance. The Warriors situation is unique, and has lot more to do with clever drafting, excellent player development and yes, that word everyone hates, luck. Just like the only answer to ending the gulf between the two conferences is smarter management, so is the answer to beating the Warriors, or simply waiting for their sun to set. It’ll happen eventually, and maybe sooner than anyone thinks.
In a way, the good news is that we are in a collective bargaining cycle, so it gives everybody an opportunity, owners and the union, to sit down behind closed doors and take a fresh look at the system and see if there is a better way that we can do it. My belief is we can make it better. There are things and corrections we can make in the system. Of course, I’m not going to negotiate here with the union, but it requires two parties to make those changes. I think we’ve had very productive discussions with the union so far and we will continue to do so.