Adam Silver on NBA Stars Forcing Trades: We Want Players and Teams to Honor Contracts

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVMay 17, 2022

CLEVELAND, OHIO - FEBRUARY 19: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media during a press conference as part of the 2022 All-Star Weekend at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on February 19, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN's Malika Andrews on Tuesday that he wanted to see both players and teams honor existing contracts.

ESPN @espn

Adam Silver joined <a href="https://twitter.com/malika_andrews?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@malika_andrews</a> to discuss NBA stars breaching their contracts and forcing trades:<br><br>"From a league standpoint we want teams to honor contracts, we want players to honor contracts. ... I know we can do better, I know the players want to do better. " <a href="https://t.co/2cB6gfkakr">pic.twitter.com/2cB6gfkakr</a>

"From a league standpoint, we want teams to honor contracts, we want players to honor contracts," he said. "There's no doubt we'll sit down and talk about it.  I know we can do better. I know the players want to do better because it's not an individual sport. So if a player is pushing to move out of a city, it has an enormous impact on all of those other players."

While the NBA has seen more and more star players exercise their influence and leverage to force trades in the modern NBA, Brooklyn Nets guard/forward Ben Simmons arguably took it to a new level this past season. 

Simmons, in his sixth season and in the second of a five-year, $177.2 million contract, requested a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers last summer after the Sixers lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals for what was the third time in four seasons.

When the Sixers didn't find a trade to their liking, Simmons didn't report to training camp. While he did return to the team in October, he was kicked out of a practice for a lack of effort, suspended by the team and remained away from the team after that until he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in February's James Harden deal. 

Generally speaking, players who have forced their way out of situations have been later in their careers, toward the end of a current contract and on teams that weren't considered contenders. Anthony Davis was on the final year of his deal in 2019 when he forced a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, leaving behind a New Orleans Pelicans team that had reached the playoffs only twice in his career.

James Harden was in the second year of a four-year, $171 million extension (the fourth year is a player option) when he forced a trade to the Brooklyn Nets early in the 2020-21 campaign. That followed general manager Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D'Antoni each stepping down, with the feeling around the NBA that Houston's title window had likely closed. 

Simmons certainly bucked that trend. The Sixers were still considered a contender, with two-time MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and solid third option Tobias Harris on the roster. Philly had made the postseason in every year Simmons played. The window was wide open.

 "F--k that," an Eastern Conference team executive told SI.com's Chris Mannix in October about Simmons attempting to force a trade. "You let a guy force his way out with four years left on a max contract and you set a terrible precedent. They can't cave."

The Sixers didn't cave, instead waiting until a star player they wanted became available in February with the Harden deal. But it became one of the primary storylines of the 2021-22 season nonetheless.