Jerry West: Teams shouldn't give in
LOS ANGELES -- According to former Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West, teams needn't worry so much about a superstar demanding to be traded.
West, being careful not to mention players by name, alluded to situations like the one the Orlando Magic currently faces with Dwight Howard, saying there's no reason teams should give into those demands.
Asked what he would do as a lead executive in a situation where a superstar has made it known he wants out, the ex-Laker executive said it was fairly clear-cut.
I honestly think I'd call their bluff. I really would, because I don't think any agent or player is going to leave $30 million on the table. I just don't believe that's going to happen.” -- Jerry West on trade demands
"I honestly think I'd call their bluff," West said in an interview on 710 ESPN's Mason and Ireland show Thursday, not mentioning Howard specifically. "I really would, because I don't think any agent or player is going to leave $30 million on the table.
"I just don't believe that's going to happen."
West, of course, was referencing the provision in the NBA's collective bargaining agreement that allows players to re-sign with their current teams for one more year and more annual money than any other squad.
He cited that as the primary reason he wouldn't comply with a superstar's trade demands. And he also said he wouldn't want a player on his team who didn't want to be there and wouldn't want many of the players that would come back in a deal for a high-salaried superstar.
"If I were an executive on a team where a player says he's going to leave, let him leave," West said on 710 ESPN's Max and Marcellus show earlier Thursday. "It would be better than saddling yourself with a bunch of players that are not going to fit in to what you're trying to do -- high-salaried players, in many cases overpaid players by today's standards, that would burden you going forward. "I'd almost rather start over again myself. You're not going to replace that player, but there's an enormous penalty there and it looks like to me like the inmates are running the asylum if you let that happen."
West, 73, worked as the Lakers' head decision-maker for some 19 years, winning six titles in the process. He orchestrated the deals for Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, among others, before spending five years in charge of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Now working as an executive board member for the Golden State Warriors, West is keenly aware of the changing structure of the modern NBA, where superstars and their agents try to wrestle away the power to arrange deals from the teams themselves.
He said that makes executives' jobs tougher, but not impossible.
"You're dealing with a superstar and probably a high-profile agent who is trying to put that player's career, maybe, in an ancillary market where there might be more money available to you," West said. "Today, I think, you look at the real punitive damage when a player says, 'I want you to trade me somewhere else.'"
"We have an awful lot of players who say I want to go here or I want to go there. And I think that's what takes some of the joy out of the game and particularly fans and cities that have supported teams."
The NBA trade deadline looms on March 15.
Pedro Moura is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com.