Jerry West says teams should call trade demand bluffs

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Last season it was Carmelo Anthony. This season it’s Dwight Howard. Players who hold the threat of walking as a free agent over a team to force a trade to a destination they prefer.

Jerry West wants none of it. He says teams should call the player’s bluff — make him leave the money on the table to walk away.

The legendary player and long-time league GM of the Lakers and Grizzlies (and current Golden State minority owner and team consultant) was asked in interviews on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles how he would handle such a situation if it were his team.

“I honestly think I’d call their bluff,” West said in an interview on 710 ESPN’s Mason and Ireland show Thursday, not mentioning Howard specifically. “I really would, because I don’t think any agent or player is going to leave $30 million on the table. I just don’t believe that’s going to happen….”

“If I were an executive on a team where a player says he’s going to leave, let him leave,” West said on 710 ESPN’s Max and Marcellus show earlier Thursday. “It would be better than saddling yourself with a bunch of players that are not going to fit in to what you’re trying to do — high-salaried players, in many cases overpaid players by today’s standards, that would burden you going forward.

“I’d almost rather start over again myself. You’re not going to replace that player, but there’s an enormous penalty there and it looks like to me like the inmates are running the asylum if you let that happen.”

Jerry West just became very popular in Orlando.

West has always been a risk taker and his strategy comes with one big risk — that the player isn’t bluffing and would leave. Meaning the franchise gets nothing. Maybe West would rather just start over, but if you hold out like Denver did (and find an owner like James Dolan who caves to work with) you can get a fair amount of talent back.

But in the case of Orlando, do you think Howard is willing to leave the guaranteed year and larger raises on the table just to get out of town? Is getting Brook Lopez or Andrew Bynum back worth it for the Magic?

Or do you call Howard’s bluff?