Player movement has become a big deal of late in the NBA. Between LeBron James leaving Cleveland, Carmelo Anthony forcing a trade from Denver to New York, and the Jazz preemptively dealing Deron Williams to New Jersey, fans of smaller-market teams wonder if it's possible to retain stars. There's been talk of an NFL-style franchise tag that would forcibly bind an NBA star to his current team (hostage, but a fabulously-paid one). I asked a Charlotte Bobcat about that recently, and since his answer might rankle his employers, I'll protect the player's anonymity. This player asked a fairness question: Should a system exist where the Cavaliers could force James to stay in Cleveland, while the Bobcats could simultaneously trade Gerald Wallace for draft picks and payroll relief? His point: If the league wants to force stars to play in the same city indefinitely, then players who want to stay where they are, and have real tenure with those organizations, should have more say in their futures. Baseball has long had the 5/10 rule that veterans with long service - both overall and with their current teams - can veto a trade. Don't you know St. Louis Cardinals star Albert Pujols loves that rule a season out from unrestricted free agency. I have to say I never thought about this, but that anonymous Bobcat has a point: Teams expect loyalty, want to legislate it by restricting free-agency, but often don't practice loyalty in return. I don't mean that as an indictment of the Bobcats; they were exercising their rights under the current system by liquidating Wallace's trade value. I'm saying the system, in all sports, tends to make loyalty a one-way street. I know NBA Commissioner David Stern is of two minds about player movement. He's consistently defended choices by James, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire to change teams. He thinks stars should have the unencumbered right, at some point in their careers, to choose where they live and for whom they play.
Teams can't expect loyalty when there's none in return
Charlotte Observer | Mar 6