Silver sees free agency changes after NBA star shifts

Los Angeles (AFP) –


NBA free agency rules need to be revised after a wild week of deals saw superstar talent shifts and player trade demands, league commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday.

Speaking in Las Vegas after team owners meetings at the NBA Summer League, Silver said it was clear talks had been underway about major moves long before the NBA opened its official negotiating period.

News of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving going to Brooklyn broke minutes into the start of free agency on June 30, leading Silver and many others to conclude the NBA can't enforce its own free agency regulations.

"Obviously, if deals are being announced immediately after the discussion period begins, there had been prior discussions," Silver said.

"To a certain extent, we always knew that there was some leakage, some slippage around those deadlines, and I think there was a certain amount that historically had been acceptable in the league.

"The consensus at both our committee meetings and the board meeting was that we need to revisit and reset those rules... It's pointless at the end of the day to have rules that we can't enforce.

"The sense in the room was we should revisit those rules, think about what does make sense for our teams so that ultimately we can create a level playing field."

If some teams wait to open talks when NBA rules allow, they might find their desired talent already agreed to deals with another club.

"The marching orders to the league, together with our labor relations committee, is that we should spend the next several months thinking about both what is in our unilateral power to change and then potentially what it is we should be discussing with the players when we sit back down for bargaining," Silver said.

Silver said the NBA need not wait for final salary cap figures if they made adjustments later.

He saw positives in Brooklyn's moves plus Kawhi Leonard and Paul George going to the Los Angeles Clippers -- George after asking for a trade from Oklahoma City. But big markets showed an edge over small ones.

"You want to make sure you have a league where every team is in a position to compete. My sense was, especially when it comes to free agency and the rules around it, that we've got work to do."

- 'Victims of our own success' -

In some ways, star players command more power in the talent shift equation than teams.

"I don't necessarily see it as player versus owner," Silver said. "To the extent the balance of power is out of whack a little bit, we should address it.

"This notion of player power, what we're really talking about is a small group of players."

Silver said the extra attention on off-season moves and teams salary cap situations has led to greater pressure on teams and players when it comes to free agency.

"The world has changed, and in part we're the victims of our own success," he said. "We never used to have this kind of coverage in the off-season. The 24/7 attention on free agency creates new pressures.

"It's silly to think a team isn't going to talk to its own player about a potential extension. It may be that we should allow the discussions to begin much sooner, recognizing that it's likely to happen anyway."

Silver called trade demands such as the ones George made to join Leonard "disheartening" but said there's no simple solution.

"This is a talent-driven business. Players have leverage. They have economic power of their own," Silver said. "That's what collective bargaining agreements are for, to sit down and come up with rules that are sensible and fair for everyone."