Late last month, just before the 2022 free agency period got underway, Kevin Durant shook up the NBA world by requesting a trade from the Brooklyn Nets. Not much has happened on that front in the two weeks since his demand went public, but the story has still dominated the airwaves and internet.
Out in Las Vegas, NBA commissioner Adam Silver held a press conference during Summer League. At one point he was asked bout the Durant situation, and seemed displeased. Here is his full response:
Reporter: Back in February, you talked about how having stars making trade demands was not necessarily good for the league. Curious when you have Kevin Durant, one of the two or three biggest stars in the league making a trade demand, days before his own four-year extension even kicks in, what’s your response when you see that or what’s your reaction when you see that?
COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: My view hasn’t changed. I don’t know whether his — whether he requested a trade or demanded one, frankly.
Look, this needs to be a two-way street. Teams provide enormous security and guarantees to players and the expectation is, in return, they will meet their end of the bargain. I’m realistic that there’s always conversations that are going to go on behind closed doors between players and their representatives and the teams. But we don’t like to see players requesting trades, and we don’t like to see it playing out the way it is.
I mean, ideally, especially as I was just saying in response to the last question, the basketball was fantastic this past season, the playoffs, we had a wonderful Finals. I don’t want to be naïve, but I would love the focus to be on the play on the floor.
And as to what we can do about this issue, again, when a player asks to be moved, it has a ripple effect on a lot of other players, on that player’s team and other teams. So it’s not just potentially the league or the team governors who are impacted by that, but lots of other players as well.
It’s one of those issues that as we move into this collective bargaining cycle, which we are just beginning now, we intend to discuss with our Players Association and see if there are remedies for this. Again, as I said, it will never be the case when players won’t be unhappy in certain situations, but we don’t want to see it playing out the way it is now.
I think it is something where there is mutuality of interests between the players collectively and the league, having more stability. So that’s something we’ll be discussing with the union.
In short: Silver isn’t happy.
On the one hand, as Silver noted, the constant stream of trade requests and off-court drama takes away from the actual basketball and turns the league into more and more of a soap opera. Star players’ ability to force their way out regardless of how many years they have left on their contracts also puts teams in a precarious position.
On the other hand, fans’ interest in the off-court drama is one of the main reasons the league has become a year-round product and is constantly growing in popularity. Plus, players rarely ask out of winning situations, and you can argue that if a team can’t build a competitive team around their star then it’s their own fault if they have to trade them.
Regardless of which side of the argument you land on, it’s clear the current situation is untenable, and there will need to be some adjustments in the near future. To that point, it’s worth noting another comment from Silver:
“As I said, though, it takes both us and the Players Association sitting down and I think acknowledging the principles that are at stake here, and that is the sanctity of contracts and the desire for stability that affects not just that player but other players as well.”
“I am hopeful. We have a very productive relationship with our Players Association. We are not necessarily going to completely eliminate players asking to be moved, but we are going to find a way to move the attention back on to the court.”
It will be interesting to see how the league and the Players Association try to address this issue, and to what extent it will impact future collective bargaining agreements.