With 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 NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.