Blake Griffin was traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Detroit Pistons just months after being pitched, in part, on making him a Clipper for life.
Los Angeles reportedly rolled out a huge banner for Griffin, simulating the team retiring his jersey to the rafters at Staples Center at the conclusion of his career. It’s not clear why, but Griffin did not negotiate a no-trade clause in the contract he signed with the Clippers, and now he’s headed for the Motor City — albeit with a sizable chunk of change in his pocket.
Griffin has been courteous about his change of location as the Clippers move on from the best star the team has ever drafted, but at least one NBA star wasn’t super excited about how things went down between Griffin and LA.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James told reporters that he felt there was a double-standard for how teams and players are treated when it comes to loyalty. In particular, James pointed out that often times when a team moves a player the conversation lands on what the team is doing to make themselves better. Meanwhile, when a player leaves in free agency or demands a trade, it’s branded as “disloyal”.
Obviously, LeBron has a bit of experience with that kind of backlash.
The answer here is simply that players aren’t being disloyal when they leave a team. The NBA is a business (a booming one at that) and the backlash from fans is part of the same thing that drives that business. That kind of fiery dedication pushes people to subscribe to cable packages, renew their season tickets, and buy jerseys and merchandise. In the age of social media, it also allows that kind of rabid fanaticism to get broadcasted directly to players, who can feel personally attacked when they make a business decision.
There’s been some significant chatter that many stars could ask for no-trade clauses in their upcoming contracts in the summer of 2018, which could cause some serious gridlock in the years to come and potentially even force new conversations about player agency in forthcoming CBA negotiations. There’s no way NBA owners would let themselves get bullied into every new max-level NBA guy having a no-trade clause.
Meanwhile, it seems the Clippers don’t have a shot at LeBron despite rumors they moved Griffin in part to clear enough cap space for him this summer.