Kevin Durant applauded LeBron James‘ decision to return to the Cavaliers when speaking to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne during Team USA tryouts in Vegas yesterday. He also said some nice things about returning to play in his hometown when his Thunder face the Wizards. Now everyone is freaking out about KD’s possible move to Washington DC when he becomes a free agent after the 2015-16 season. The instances of star free agency have become more frequent and speak to the irony behind the 2011 collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
After training camp on Tuesday, Durant said he thought it was “pretty cool” LeBron is joining the Cavs this summer. Via ESPN.com:
“I thought it was well-thought-out. It was classy. It was a great move to do it as a letter. That was pretty cool. It’s funny seeing guys think about more than just basketball for once. He thought about the city where he comes from, about Northeast Ohio and how he can affect so many of the kids just being there playing basketball. I love that. So many guys get criticized for making the decision that’s best for them, instead of what’s best for everybody else. He’s a guy that did that. You gotta respect that. I applauded him, I texted him and told him congratulations on the decision and told him I was happy for him. As a fan of the game, it’s going to be pretty cool to see him back in Cleveland.”
Durant grew up in Seat Pleasant, Maryland inside Prince George’s County just outside Washington DC — a place he thanked profusely after he won his first MVP award this past season.
When KD was asked whether he might follow the same path as LeBron and sign with the Wizards when he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2016, he was somewhat cagey with his answer, not dismissing the notion, but speaking effusively about returning home every time the Thunder travel to play the Wizards:
“I’m going to do what’s best for me. It’s hard to talk about that right now when I’ve got two years left in Oklahoma City. I’m just going to focus on that. I’m not going to make a decision based on what anybody else does. I grew up watching the Bullets/Wizards. I grew up taking the train to that arena, all the time, to watch Georgetown, the Bullets, the Washington Mystics. That whole city is a part of me. It’s in my blood. I love going back home, seeing my family and playing there, but I love Oklahoma City too.”
Quotes like that one have a tendency to perk the ears of Wizards fans, which explains the fervid excitement in the reaction by SB Nation’s Mike Prada — as talented a writer as there is when breaking down game film. Prada ended his fawning and tongue-in-cheek piece by concluding, “I can’t wait to keep doing this for the next 23 months. Embrace the chase.”
And that’s where we’re at after the 2011 CBA put a five-year limit on player contracts — and that’s only if a team re-signs their own player. If a player changes teams in free agency, he can only sign for four years.
When the 2011 CBA was agreed upon the coverage all agreed the owners had gotten a resounding win. They effectively put structures in place — like the length of the contract, a harsher luxury tax penalty to impinge on spending bonanzas — that kept themselves in check. Basically, the new agreement prevents them from mucking up their own teams. We could wax poetic about how odd it is too see strident capitalists like NBA owners cozying up to socialist structures like those in the new CBA, but that’s for another piece.
No, we’re concerned with the ironic effect the CBA has had for the owners. They’ve effectively turned themselves into pawns for NBA free agents every summer.