NBA Free Agency

Kyrie Irving's demands are taking disloyalty to an obscene new level

Kyrie Irving's demands are taking disloyalty to an obscene new level

I don't know about you, but I'm seeing something in the NBA right now that could become a real problem for me.

For years, discontented players have asked to be traded. Usually they do it privately and not in the media. You never hear about it most of the time that it happens.

First, let's get this straight right now -- I have nothing against free agency. I grew up in an era when players where chained to the same team for life, even if they never got a chance to play much. They had no options. They had to play for the team that "owned" them, or go home.

So now free agency has brought a lot of player movement and it usually favors the rich franchises, the more glamorous cities or the places where the sun shines the most frequently. But I never get too worked up over that. It's the way it is in any business. People want to work for successful companies alongside talented co-workers in great cities.

I wasn't upset when Kevin Durant chose Golden State or LeBron James picked Miami. Or Cleveland. It was their right. The fulfilled their contract and won the right to choose a new team.

But what's bugging me now is a player under contract who is acting as if he is a free agent. He is not only demanding a trade, he is trying to dictate where he should be dealt. I don't like any of that.

Kyrie Irving is that guy. He has three seasons -- the last one being an opt-out year -- left on his contract with Cleveland and has told the Cavs he wishes to be traded. And not only that, he's given the team three "preferred destinations." Now keep in mind, this isn't Carmelo Anthony, who has basically been run out of town by Phil Jackson and has it written into his current contract with the Knicks that he has the right to approve any trades.

What gives Irving the right to expect to just trade his uniform in for another one? Well, nothing. Except NBA players these days are being catered to, fawned over and recruited the same way they were in their high school days, when they played AAU basketball. And we are starting to see the signs that they are beginning to think they can simply go where they want, sign up to play with their pals or create a super team on a whim.

And face it, in many cases some of the top players are basically running their franchise. LeBron James complains in Cleveland that he doesn't get enough help to beat the Warriors but come on -- LeBron has been the de facto General Manager of that team since he returned. He's been behind a good many of that team's trades and free-agent signings, as he assembled a roster of friends and players he knew would defer to him. Now that it isn't working to his satisfaction, he wants a do-over. Or to go someplace else.

If we're talking about recruiting free agents or even Anthony -- who has the no-trade clause that he could modify for any team chasing him -- that's fair game. But players already under contract who first demand a trade and then try to pick the team they go to?

No way.

First off, you sign a deal for $20 million a season as Irving did, you keep your mouth shut and play. Play it out. Then you become a free agent and can go wherever you want. But don't attempt to hold a team for ransom that has signed you in good faith. Be a person of integrity and honor your deal.

And trying to pick the team you're traded to after demanding a trade while under contract? That's what's adding insult to injury.

The Cavs should find out where he'd least like to go and send him there. If the league gets to the point when contracts mean nothing and players can merely quit on their current team and demand a trade to a specific team of their choice, that's when I will quit paying attention.

There is enough player movement as it is, with free agency. And giving up on your current team is not only unseemly, it takes disloyalty to an obscene level.

The Trail Blazers have done everything possible to avoid Utah's Hayward calamity

The Trail Blazers have done everything possible to avoid Utah's Hayward calamity

Yes, it was too bad Utah couldn't have held on to Gordon Hayward instead of losing him to Boston in free agency. The Jazz had something good percolating in Salt Lake City but lost an all-star player with no compensation, a monumental setback for a small-market franchise.

But in analyzing what happened to Utah, it's easy to see how the Trail Blazers have taken a much smarter approach to building a franchise in a market that's not likely to attract premium free agents.

The Jazz messed up with Hayward. They blew it. And forget market size and all those alibis, Hayward should still be in a Utah uniform. Back in 2014, the Jazz had the chance to sign him to a five-year rookie extension and did not do that. Sure, Hayward had not yet shown he would become an all-star, but his career arc was on the rise. I'm not certain whether the Utah front office was simply penny pinching or just didn't know how talented Hayward was -- but really,  a big underrated skill for those operating a team in the NBA is knowing your own players and their potential better than anyone else does.

And when you draft and develop players with all-star potential, you better be 100 percent, rock-solid sure they don't blossom someplace else. You just cannot afford to make mistakes with players you have drafted and had on your roster for multiple seasons.

Utah could have signed Hayward to that extension at five years and $80 million but sat back, hoping to re-sign him on the cheap. However Charlotte came in and offered him a four-year, $63 million deal with the final season a player option. Of course, Utah matched the offer -- but as you can see, it cost the Jazz two years of Hayward and those two seasons could have turned out to be successful enough to convince him to stay in Utah even longer.

Now do you understand why Neil Olshey took no such chance with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum? They are tied to the Trail Blazers for as long as contractually possible, though the 2020-21 season. And oh, by the way, all those other contracts Portland signed last summer -- Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard, Evan Turner -- that people complain about, had strategic value. The Trail Blazers preserved cap space by making those deals before signing McCollum to his extension. Had they not made those deals when they did, very little cap space would have been left to fill the roster after CJ's deal was signed.

And seriously, do you think Portland could have signed a free agent this summer as talented as McCollum? No way. In a situation like Portland's, it's best to draft wise, trade smart and make sure your key players don't get away.

Because replacing them can prove to be very difficult.

 

Which rumored free agent has strongest possibility of joining Blazers?

Which rumored free agent has strongest possibility of joining Blazers?

The Portland Trail Blazers haven't been known to land big free agent targets. Some think it rains too much. Others don't see it as a big enough media market. Whatever the reason, the Blazers head into the offseason with a ton of cap space and a young core of players to build around. 

So, with all the names out there from Kevin Durant to Dwight Howard, among others, who is the target that carries the most weight?

Dwight Jaynes and Jason Quick weigh in in the video above. 

Time to start the Kevin Durant to Portland conversation?

Time to start the Kevin Durant to Portland conversation?

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant will be the hottest free agent target this offseason, and while he has spent his entire NBA career with one team, that one team seems to be the one who is most likely to be left out in the cold. 

Before his season even ended, Durant was linked to the Washington Wizards, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors, while other teams like the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers have had players take to social media to recruit the seven-time All-Star and NBA MVP. 

So, with the 2016-17 salary cap is reportedly expected to hit $92 million and will continue to rise, is it possible to throw the Trail Blazers in to the mix? Coming off a season in which the Trail Blazers had the lowest salary cap and rose to the levels of the Western Conference Semifinals, Neil Olshey has money to spend. With a team on the rise, Durant could find himself in a place that once passed him up in the NBA Draft. 

Durant can make more money in Oklahoma City because the Thunder have his Bird Rights, which allows him to earn up to 30 percent of the team's cap. Durant could sign a one-year contract with the Thunder and become a free agent next summer, allowing him to receive 35 percent of the team's salary cap. 

So, as the free agency circus officially begins next month, Durant to (insert team name here) is worth a discussion. 

Isaac and Suke discussed the prospects of Durant to Portland in the video above.