Why Can’t NBA Players Publicly Demand a Trade?

Trade demands, especially among star NBA players, often create off-court drama. Although many believe this is where such demands start and end, it goes much deeper. From the high-profile demand of Anthony Davis last season to a trade demand from Sacramento Kings big-man Dewayne Dedmon this year, the NBA frowns upon public demands for trades.

Why players demand trades

Trade demands are nothing new in the NBA, but they’ve become increasingly prevalent in the 21st century. While other players demanded trades in the past, players have more often to secure power past free agency in recent seasons. It was, after all, what got Carmelo Anthony to New York after publicly wanting out of Denver

Players like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard, on the other hand, used a different tactic. They opted instead to keep discussions about looming free agency behind closed doors despite any rumblings. This tactic is the one the NBA would most like players to use, but it doesn’t always work out this way. 

Sometimes, players demand trades for reasons other than contracts. They may feel like the team has done something to disrespect them or inhibit their growth, as Leonard did on his way out of San Antonio. This can often be the case for role players who fall out of rotation, too. They may not care about the money, but they do want to play.

The way NBA contracts are structured, provisions give teams the chance to offer more money to returning players over those teams luring them away. On the other hand, these provisions let players establish power entering free agency. 

Adam Silver’s response

Despite being the face of the league, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver ultimately works in the owners’ interest. He sees trade demands as a bad look for players and the demands regarding supermax contacts to be an “unintended consequence” of its intention. 

“When they make a public spectacle of it,” Silver said per NBA.com. “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.”

While teams are allowed to blindside players with trades, players are expected to honor their contracts without ever speaking out publicly against their current team. When Davis requested a trade last year, he was fined $50,000 for doing so. Dedmon got an identical punishment for his recent trade request. 

It is well within the NBA’s rights to expect contracts to be honored. Although some may see the punishment for players who want out as hypocritical. 

NBA players’ power

NBA owners constantly fight players’ attempts to regain power. Whether a player is using his contract to go where he pleases while retaining his financial options or he’s mad about his role, a player can only do so much under contract. On the other hand, teams can tell players everything they want to hear then go back on them without notice. 

This was the case with Blake Griffin, who signed an extension with the Los Angeles Clippers, believing he was part of their future plans. Then, they shipped him out within months. Players may be expected to be loyal to teams, but teams often don’t display the same amount of loyalty to players. 

When Silver says he does not want players to make their trade demands a public spectacle, he’s acting in the interest of his clients. While he has acknowledged that players are unwillingly traded all the time, he ultimately sides with the teams with his actions. Until players can get universal no-trade clauses or other drastic changes, however, the double standard will continue to exist. 

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