Gilson’s Sports Guide: The double standard in the NBA

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Cleveland Cavaliers center Andre Drummond, left, and Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard reach for the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Trades are a part of being a professional athlete. Whether you are a perennial All-Star looking to go to a team competing for the title, or a role player tossed in as an added incentive, trades are something most players and teams will deal with during their career.  

But whereas teams are lauded for doing what it takes to win a title for their city, players are, as Draymond Green so eloquently put it, castrated if they so much as request to play for another organization, paving the way for one of the unhealthiest double standards seen in professional sports today. 

Exhibit A: Andre Drummond. 

After being traded from Detroit to Cleveland last season, Drummond continued to do what he does better than most other players in the league: grab boards and rack up defensive stats. After 25 games this season, Drummond is second in the league in rebounds per game (13.5) and is one of just six players to be averaging over one steal and one block per game.  

If you’re the Cavs, you knew this is what you were getting when you traded for the big man. You also knew that you were signing up for some questionable decision making on the offensive end, poor free throw shooting and probably too many turnovers for someone who handles the ball as infrequently as he does.  

So, you can understand the confusion when Drummond found out he’s being benched completely in favor of recently acquired Jarrett Allen. Despite doing the same thing he has done for his entire nine-year career, the Cavaliers simply said thanks, but no thanks. 

Cleveland Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen, right, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers center Serge Ibaka defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 128-111. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you Drummond should be starting and Allen should be riding the bench, because I do believe Allen is the future for the Cavs. But the idea of simply giving up on and refusing to give minutes to a player who worked hard for the team and played some very impressive games does not sit right with me. But that is the control the NBA has over its players, something I wouldn’t have as much trouble with if it were the same going in the other direction, when a player wants to move on from a team. But this is not the case. 

There have been two instances in recent memory where a player got fined $50k for openly requesting a trade. These players were Anthony Davis and Dewayne Dedmond.  

Davis had spent the first seven years of his career with the Pelicans, even dating back to when they were the New Orleans Hornets. And after seven years of hard work and excellent play with nearly nothing to show for it, Davis rightfully requested a trade, hoping to go to a contender for a real shot at a title. But instead of understanding that it was his time to move on, fans and parts of the league turned on Davis, bashing him for his lack of loyalty to their organization. 

In Dedmond’s case, after spending half a season feeling undervalued and underappreciated, the center requested to play elsewhere. The role player’s wishes were met with a fine and disgust from the fanbase. 

In both cases, the players had done their time and tried to get by on their respective teams but knew –for their own good –that they needed to move on.  But ultimately, they became the villains. Meanwhile, NBA teams can say a player doesn’t work in their system and drop or trade them on a dime, sometimes not even having the courtesy to tell the players they are being traded. 

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, left, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Players like Robert Covington, DeMarcus Cousins and even Blake Griffin found out through secondary sources that they were on the move. In Griffin’s case, he had supposedly been in talks with the Clippers about extensions and his jersey number hanging in the rafters just days before finding out he would be traded to the Pistons. 

How can the NBA expect players to handle themselves professionally regarding trade requests and expectations when it’s normalized teams showing a complete lack of commitment to a player and either trade them or, in Drummond’s case, bench them until they can find something better? Draymond said it best: 

“I got fined for stating my opinion on what I thought should happen with another player, but teams can come out and continue to say, ‘Oh, we’re trading guys, we’re not playing you,’” Green said in an interview. “And yet, we’re to stay professional?! At some points as players, we need to be treated with the same respect and have the same rights that the team can have. Because as a player, you’re the worst person in the world when you want a different situation.” 

Either players need to be given the freedom to request a trade without fear of verbal execution from the public, or teams need to be held more responsible for their blatant mistreatment of a player who doesn’t fit in their system, like Drummond and the Cavs.  

But in one way or another, the double standard present in the NBA regarding trades must be handled for the betterment of the players and of the sport. It simply can’t continue like this. 

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