CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NBA commissioner Adam Silver made the league's stance loud and clear on the recent spate of trade requests by some of its most high-profile players.
"I would just say, blanketedly, no, I don't like trade demands, and I wish they didn't come, and I wish all those matters were handled behind closed doors," Silver said Saturday at his annual news conference at All-Star Weekend.
Over the past several years, stars such as Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis have requested trades from their respective teams well before their contracts were up, embroiling their franchises in very public tugs of war over the teams' and players' best interests.
Silver toed the line between expressing concern with the development without necessarily calling for urgent intervention from the commissioner's office.
"In terms of trade demands, again, certainly, that's nothing new in this league, and I won't name names, but some of the greatest players in the history of this league have demanded trades at various points in their contract," Silver said. "Having said that, no one likes to see an instance where a player is demanding that he be traded when he still is in the middle of a contractual obligation to a team."
Silver pointed out that the way Davis' recent request to be dealt from the New Orleans Pelicans was handled, he felt the need to fine Davis' agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, $50,000.
Though Silver found fault in Davis' management in that instance, he admitted the NBA could have contributed to the current environment by the contract rules it pushed for in the last round of collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
"The league has to take responsibility," Silver said. "The thought was teams should be able to be in a position to extend a year early, so that a player didn't reach the end of his contract and then a team was then in a position where they were blindsided and say, 'Well, we had no idea the player wasn't going to stay.' And the notion of extending a year earlier is so you could have that conversation with the player, and the player told you behind closed doors, of course, 'I'm going to honor my contract, but I don't plan on staying at the end of it.' The team would be in a position to get fair value for the player.
"Once again, the law of unintended consequences, it hasn't worked as precisely as we had planned. That's another area we have to focus on."
Silver acknowledged the blindsiding can work both ways, and the actions of Irving and Davis, among others, shocked their franchises much the same way franchises such as the LA Clippers and Toronto Raptors shocked their star players, Blake Griffin and DeMar DeRozan, in the middle of their primes.
"Of course, teams also blindside players, too, and trade them," he said. "I think the issue ultimately is that, whether it be a team or a player not meeting a contractual obligation, I mean, that's something I think you just don't want to see as a league, even if it's a one-year contract or a five-year contract, that's a commitment the player makes, and that's a commitment the organization makes to that player with a guaranteed contract. I recognize, and I think it's perfectly appropriate, that conversations take place behind closed doors, where players or their agents are saying to management, 'It's my intention to move on,' for whatever reasons."
While the trade demands irk teams, they have also drawn attention to the league with a fan base fascinated by player movement. But not all news is good news, according to Silver.
"I think, when they make a public spectacle of it, I hear you in terms of the enormous media interest that comes from it, but that's not the kind of media interest we're looking for," Silver said.
With Irving requesting a trade with two years remaining on his contract and Davis requesting one with a year and a half left, it could give ammunition to the league to seek even shorter guaranteed contract lengths in the next round of CBA negotiations, as it has pursued in the past.
"Two collective bargaining agreements ago, in 2010 and '11, we set out to shorten contracts because we wanted to more closely tie pay to performance, and we wanted to give teams a chance to rebuild faster, meaning players wouldn't be locked into contractual situations for too long a period, and we also wanted to give players the flexibility to move on," he said. "So the result of that is the latest I've heard from our basketball operations group is that, I believe, 40 percent of our players are going to be free agents this summer.
"So it's two sides of the coin. Some people could say, 'Oh my God, look at all that player movement.' On the other hand, that player movement could be very positive for a lot of teams."
Silver said that Davis and New Orleans now find themselves locked in "a very awkward position," with Davis' playing status for the rest of the season still unknown, and he believes that work can be done to avoid these situations in the future.
"It's something we have to sit down with the players' association, but I ultimately have confidence that, again, these are not endemic problems to the league," Silver said. "These, to me, are very fixable issues that, if you have a players' association that is sitting down with us and saying, 'How can we create the best competition that creates the best system among 30 teams?' we can come up with a better way of proceeding."
Silver used the nearly 40-minute media address to celebrate the league's success, citing the estimated $100 million financial windfall the All-Star Game will bring to the state of North Carolina and touched on several other issues:
• Silver believes "progress" has been made in the realm of creating competitive balance, noting that seven different teams have won championships in the past 11 years after the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls combined to win 60 percent of the league's titles in the first 60 years of the NBA's existence. However, teams can essentially still buy talent to win.
"I think it, in this day and age, has less to do with small market versus big market," Silver said. "In some cases, it has to do with payrolls. In our cap system, as you well know, it's a tax-based system, which creates penalties, in essence, for going over the salary cap, but you still end up with fairly large disparities in salaries from one market to another. And often that disparity is not based on the size of the market. In certain cases, it's based on revenue generation, which doesn't always perfectly correlate. In some cases, it's based on a willingness of a team to become unprofitable."
• Even though the Knicks, Hawks, Bulls and Cavaliers are all in a race to the bottom of the standings, Silver believes the new draft lottery system -- which gives the worst three teams the same odds of landing the top pick -- will work.
"I still think it's a bit early, and let's see what happens, whether certain behavior of teams is rewarded through the lottery," he said. "I mean, clearly, in many cases, the odds are not in their favor. I recognize, in terms of playing the analytics, it doesn't mean that the strategy is going to be eliminated completely. As you know, this is the sixth time that we've changed the odds of the draft lottery. I'm pretty sure we acknowledged at the time that we didn't think we'd solve the problem."
"The suggestion actually came from a fan in an email to me," he said. "I get lots of emails as commissioner. People can go to our website and, in essence, email ideas to the commissioner and often complaints. In this case, it was an idea that came from a fan, and I heard it from some others as well. I asked my colleagues in the league office what they thought of it, and I spoke to both Mark Cuban, of course, the principal owner of the Mavericks, and Micky and Nick Arison at the Miami Heat, and asked them what they thought of the idea. Everyone thought it was a wonderful idea, not mine. I was really just sharing it with them."
He said he would like the league to have "flexibility for special occasions" when considering adding essentially lifetime achievement All-Stars in the future.
• Silver offered his thoughts on the settlement reached by Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid to settle their collusion case against the NFL.
"It's interesting," he said. "I assume those players or their representatives made a decision to keep the settlement confidential. I was a little bit surprised by that, just because there's been so much focus on the issue. So I know no more than anyone sitting in this room about the settlement. I'd say generally I'm glad, as usually a settlement suggests that both sides were satisfied with the outcome. So to the extent that the NFL and those two players have reached somewhat of an amicable settlement, I think that's positive for everyone. I'm happy for the NFL, and I'm happy for those players that they're in a position where they can now move on."
• As the Dallas Mavericks approach the one-year mark since a series of sexual harassment and employee misconduct incidents came to light, Silver said he is satisfied with the steps Cuban has taken to improve the workplace environment and dedicate $2 million to women's organizations.
"I think what was, no doubt, a horrific situation. I think that there are a lot of positives, if you can say that, or a silver lining has come out of it," he said. "I had the opportunity to speak to virtually every employee of the team through a series of meetings over the course of a full day I was there. And I spoke to some employees individually, and I spoke to them as a group, and, again, we also have hotlines in place and anonymous ways of reporting issues. At least what was reported directly to me and through the organization is that it was a complete sea change in culture on the business side with the Mavericks, that [Mavs CEO] Cynthia Marshall was getting the highest possible grades, along with the new senior management team that she had brought in."
• After relocating the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans in protest of the North Carolina law HB2, which discriminated against the LGBTQ community in the league's eyes, Silver was pleased to see the progress made to ultimately bring the All-Star Game to Charlotte.
"I will say then, with strong support from Michael Jordan and Fred Whitfield and others in the [Hornets] organization, they began an effort working with the city and the state to repeal that law, and ultimately, I'd say, in true North Carolina fashion, people came together and ultimately did change that law," Silver said. "For many people, it didn't go far enough, and I'm sympathetic to those who feel that there are still not appropriate protections for the LGBTQ community, but I also felt from a league standpoint it was important, and as part of our core values, to work with people and ultimately to move forward with the community."