SALT LAKE CITY — The news reverberated around the Warriors’ locker room. When it came to discussing the Clippers trading star forward Blake Griffin as part of a centerpiece deal to the Detroit Pistons, the discussions did not center on the implications for the Clippers or the Pistons.
It centered on what it said about long-term security, or lack thereof, even for NBA franchise players.
“When he signed, they did say he was going to be a ‘Clipper for life,’” Warriors forward Kevin Durant said following the team’s 129-99 loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday. “We know those words don’t really mean anything as players.”
On the heels of the Clippers executing a sign-and-trade with Houston to accommodate Chris Paul’s departure, the Clippers had hosted an elaborate free-agent pitch to Griffin that pinned him as the franchise’s face.
Even with Griffin suffering durability issues through his first eight NBA seasons, he received a five-year, $171 million deal to stay with the Clippers because of the five-time All-Star’s credentials as both an explosive and versatile forward.
Yet, the Clippers changed course amid a fledgling playoff position and continued questions about Griffin’s health. Such an episode brought together renewed conversations about the NBA’s no-trade clause, which Griffin did not have.
Per NBA rules, players are only eligible for no-trade clauses after playing for eight NBA seasons and at least four years with the same team.
“Not many guys are eligible for it,” said Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who did not receive one after re-signing with the Warriors to a five-year, $201 million deal. “It’s obviously a nice perk to have. But at the end of the day there are other benefits that being an NBA player and getting the most out of your career can take care of that. A no-trade clause doesn’t have to be a huge priority.”
But then again it could be. Carmelo Anthony’s no-trade clause helped him ensure he’d land with the Oklahoma City Thunder after having philosophical differences in his last season with the New York Knicks with former president Phil Jackson. Cavaliers forward LeBron James also has a no-trade clause and has re-signed with Cleveland the past three years on one-year max deals.
“It’s another example of players being pigeonholed with this idea of loyalty, sacrifice and all that kind of stuff when it comes to signing deals and where they want to play,” Curry said. “It’s not reciprocated on the other end consistently.”
Exhibit A: Durant faced immediate public backlash after leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder as a free agent in the 2016 offseason for the Warriors.
“There’s double standards all over the world, not just in sports,” Durant said. “It is what it is.”
Instead of bemoaning that hypocrisy, Durant offered a pragmatic view.
“Blake Griffin is still being paid $173 million over the next four years. He’s playing with a legendary coach in Stan Van Gundy and some great young players,” Durant said.
“The trade probably caught him off guard, but he’s really excited to be with a good organization. They have good things going on in Detroit with a new arena. You could tell they’re trying to find some new energy.”