It’s been almost two weeks since Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant requested a trade out of the Big Apple and it is still the topic du jour among the talking heads. Hall of Famer and six-time NBA champion Scottie Pippen weighed in this week from Las Vegas, as he’s been watching his son play in Summer League. Count Pippen as someone who doesn’t mind what Durant is doing.
“That’s the game today. Players control their own destiny. Not much loyalty is needed on either side of the table anymore. I’m fair with it to be honest,” Pippen said. “I kinda like how the players have the freedom to change. It’s what the owners have been doing to players for years. They just evened the playing field to me. I don’t feel bad for what KD is doing at all. I think it’s a great move for him. You can move as much as you want in today’s game. It’s like playing pickup basketball.”
“It’s what the owners have been doing to the players for years…I don’t feel bad for what KD is doing at all”
— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) July 11, 2022
During Pippen’s tenure in the league players had very little agency. Owners and general managers decided who was going to play where, etc. While the Chicago Bulls won six championships with Michael Jordan and Pippen, the players were constantly at odds with general manager Jerry Krause. The GM made basketball roster decisions with little to no input from head coach Phil Jackson and the star players.
That type of management style wouldn’t work in today’s NBA.
But we have a bit of a problem. Now we’ve gone way too far in the other direction. Many governors and general managers kowtow and capitulate to every demand their star players make. Then, when the team is in utter disarray because of moves requested or endorsed by the star player, said player wants out or wants to make a lot of noise.
The best organizations have an established culture and work to fit players into that culture. They earn the trust of their players and take their input and suggestions on decisions, but ultimately the organization’s leaders make the best decision for the team.
That’s what the San Antonio Spurs have been for decades. It’s what the Golden State Warriors have been for the last seven years and what the Memphis Grizzlies are building.
The opposite of what’s happening in Brooklyn and with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Player empowerment on the whole is a good thing. Players should have the ability to decide where they want to live and work. The very best of the best, the top 2-3 percent of the league should have some input into personnel decisions if they choose. They don’t get to decide or make the ultimate decision, but their opinions should be heard and taken into account.
Teams demand that players improve and become the best versions of themselves. Players should demand that their organizations also be at their best. Develop a sustainable winning environment where you can compete for championships.
As for Durant and what’s next for the two-time MVP, who knows. Given the return the Utah Jazz received for sending Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves, it is unlikely any team has the necessary talent and draft capital to meet the Nets’ high asking price.
Come September and the opening of training camp it’s possible Durant is still a member of the Nets.