At the end of a summer that saw Kawhi Leonard and Paul George join forces with the Los Angeles Clippers, Anthony Davis force his way to the Los Angeles Lakers, and Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving team up with the Brooklyn Nets, many have criticized a seemingly new era of NBA player empowerment.
But National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts says not so fast, pointing out that movement appears to be more of an issue when it's determined by the players, as opposed to a team making a trade at its own discretion.
"If you want to be critical of one, be critical of both," Roberts told The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears. "Those of us who made decisions to move, it's really astounding to even consider what it feels like to be told in the middle of your life you are going to have to move. But that's the business we're in. ..."
"No one has said a word about what happens when the team precipitously trades a man, especially a family man, and the consequences that that has on him," Roberts said. "We spend so much time criticizing a player's decision to move but no time wondering or thinking is anything contoured about a team’s decision to move a player."
Examples vary case by case. Leonard, Durant, and Irving were free agents who chose to relocate to the league's two largest markets and, in Leonard and Irving's case, close to home. Davis and George essentially forced their former teams' hands by demanding trades with term left on their contracts.
Roberts says that players still have the right to ask to be traded.
"There's just a perception that owners have rights and players don't," she said. "I mean, it's unfortunate that we tend to, on some levels, continue to view players as property as opposed to people. And so, you allow for a certain flexibility as you exercise your property rights that somehow appear to be more compelling than a player's individual freedom. ... I don't know why, and it could be because there's some issues involving race and class and a number of things, but I don't know that I know why it is. I just know that it is."