The Suns are 54 years old. They own the NBA’s longest championship drought among teams that have never won a title. They might acquire another chunk of infamy in the coming weeks:
They might become the NBA’s last superteam.
Good riddance. Unless you’re on the receiving end.
Superteams are generally described as three elite players gathering in a city of their choosing in pursuit of a championship. They are scorned for choosing the path of least resistance, for making it all about them. Whether it’s karma or poor culture, these teams have often been spectacular failures.
One of them was the 2021-22 Brooklyn Nets, the team Kevin Durant built and one he is currently trying to escape. Difference is, Durant isn’t a free agent. He has four years and nearly $200 million on his contract. If he forces the Nets to trade him for lesser value (a certainty), he will have done incredible damage to one of the league’s franchises.
That’s why commissioner Adam Silver put his foot down on Tuesday. In his post-season media briefing, he made it clear he wasn’t happy with Durant, stressing how NBA players need to honor their contracts. Unlike his predecessor, Silver is a player-friendly commissioner. But his tone is beginning to change, as it must. Before Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Finals, Silver used his press briefing to decry load management, stressing that rest was up 100% even though there’s no proof the strategy even works. One year later, he’s taken a stand on Durant, and it sounds like he’s had enough of player empowerment in the NBA.
At very least, Silver understands there is a growing perception problem attached to many of his marquee performers. It’s now a league full of perceived prima donnas, players who must be asked to play basketball games, despite their first-class lives and enormous guaranteed contracts, which they might not honor if things get any more difficult.
“I don’t know whether (Durant) requested a trade or demanded one, frankly,” Silver said. “This needs to be a two-way street. Teams provide enormous security and guarantees to players, and the expectation in return is that they’ll meet their end of the bargain.
“I’m realistic that there’s always conversations going on behind closed doors between players and their representatives and the teams. But we don’t like to see players requesting trades, and we don’t like to see it playing out the way it is.”
Durant is a hard case, fiercely and unapologetically loyal to himself. Silver doesn’t have the power to guilt-trip him back to Brooklyn. But he can make it nearly impossible for one-way departures in the coming years, especially if he can prove the constant chaos and instability is a financial drain for everyone involved.
Silver made it clear that unreasonable trade demands will be part of the NBA’s agenda in upcoming labor negotiations with the NBAPA. Which means the Suns might be the last gasp of the NBA superteam.
First, they must get Durant. For better and worse. Despite the incoming and impending hate. Before it’s too late.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.