NBA commissioner Adam Silver calls trend of trade demands 'disheartening,' hints at changes to free agency timeline

NBA commissioner Adam Silver held his annual Summer League press conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday night, and addressed a number of important topics facing the league right now, including trade requests and free agency. 

Silver told reporters that he finds the recent trend of trade requests "disheartening," and said it's an issue that "needs to be addressed." Regarding free agency, Silver said there is "work to do" around that aspect of the league, and hinted at changes to come in terms of the timeline. "The one strong conviction I have is that we should not have rules that are not strictly enforced," Silver said

Both of those issues have come to a head this month during one of the craziest weeks the league has ever seen. Teams are not technically allowed to speak to free agents until free agency begins, though it's assumed that there's some connections being made here and there which allow players to agree to deals right when the period opens.

This year, however, we had reports of players agreeing to deals well in advance. We knew Kemba Walker was going to play for the Celtics a whole day before free agency started on Sunday evening, and Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant's plans to team up in with the Nets were known hours in advance. Then, a few days later, when the biggest decision of the summer finally arrived -- Kawhi Leonard signing with the Clippers -- it only happened because Paul George requested a trade and the Thunder worked out a deal to send him to Los Angeles as well. 

It was an unprecedented period of player movement, and there's no wonder that Silver and the league are monitoring the situation. How they will attempt to address the issues will be interesting to watch. 

Tampering is a tricky issue to fix because as of right now, even giant fines are not enough of a deterrent for teams. The Lakers were fined $500k in 2017 for tampering with Paul George, but even that isn't much of a deterrent. The Lakers never were able to get George, but a few hundred thousand dollars is a meager price to pay for these teams if it gets them a better shot at signing key free agents. And that's only if teams get caught. Monitoring all of the ways teams and players can connect with each other is quite a daunting task. 

Addressing trade demands, however, seems even more difficult. Players can be fined for announcing their demands publicly, as Anthony Davis was earlier this season, and there can be consequences if players decide not to honor the terms of their deals. But there's really no way for the NBA to change the hearts and minds of players. 

There's no doubt that trade requests put teams in a difficult position, especially when superstars are involved. You either have to trade your best player for what is almost never an equal return, or keep them and deal with the potential of them becoming disgruntled, as well as the possibility of losing them for nothing in free agency. 

That's really tough for teams, as the Pelicans and Thunder have just found out in recent months. But when the issue revolves around the individual desires of certain players, it's hard to develop league-wide mandates to affect meaningful change without unforeseen side effects leading to other issues. 

After league-altering events such as the opening week of free agency this summer, it's only natural to take a step back and contemplate how the various mechanisms are functioning. Some changes do feel necessary, in particular around tampering and the moratorium period of free agency. As Silver noted, some of the rules feel a bit pointless right now.

It will be interesting to see how Silver and the powers that be address these various issues, but hopefully they don't overreact to what was a likely once-in-a-lifetime flurry of movement. The league is in a pretty great place right now, and there are always unintended consequences when trying to address the balance of power between players and management. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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