Winderman: Want to stop superstar defections? Toughen the new CBA.


Thumbnail image for LeBron_Chris Paul.jpgWith the NBA’s issuance of its hands-off memorandum when it comes to teams attempting back-channels overtures to Chris Paul, it will be interesting to see how far the league goes to avoid the next in a list of superstar defections that began with Chris Bosh and LeBron James.

How much does the league want to keeps its stars in place?

The next collective-bargaining agreement could go a long way toward determining that.

This month, Bosh and James showed they would not be deterred by the current “home-team advantage” built into the CBA, the rules that limit teams to smaller raises and shorter contracts to outside free agents.

Under the soon-to-expire CBA, free agents are limited to 8 1/2-percent raises from outside teams and five-year free-agent contracts. By staying with current teams, the raises can top out at 10 1/2 percent, with a maximum contract length of six seasons.

Yet this month, that extra $25 million wasn’t enough to sway Bosh or James to stay in place.

But when Paul is eligible to become a free agent after two more seasons, what if, say, an outside team could only offer 6 1/2-percent raises or a maximum of four seasons? Would a player leave $40 million on the table?

If the current working rules remain in place, the Hornets would almost certainly have to move Paul by the 2012 midseason trading deadline, rather than losing him for nothing in exchange the following offseason.
    But if new, more-restrictive rules were in place, would there be as much concern in such a stare-down?

Free agency is here to stay. Curt Flood took care of that, and pro sports has moved well beyond that debate.

But the NBA long has prided itself on its home-team advantage it has built into free agency, an advantage that did little for the Cavaliers with James, the Raptors with Bosh or the Suns with Amare Stoudemire (and it hardly worked in the best interest of the Hawks, with the massive deal Atlanta had to offer Joe Johnson to retain the non-superstar guard).

But now the rules are about to change, with the current CBA to expire after the upcoming season.

How much does the NBA want to keep its stars in place?

We’re about to find out.

 Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.