For the last few weeks the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics have been discussing an unconventional trade, one that would not only see players change teams but also a coach. In order to do this, the deal has to be broken up into parts, with the rumored deals involving the Celtics sending out Kevin Garnett in exchange for DeAndre Jordan, and then letting Doc Rivers out of his contract in exchanges for draft picks from the Clippers.
The two teams need to convince the NBA that both deals would be made independent of each other, so they need to convince the NBA that Rivers would be let out of his contract even if Garnett was not being traded and that the Garnett for Jordan deal is one that they would make without the picks from the Rivers deal being included, both of which would seem to be a tough sell for the Celtics.
Reports that the NBA may block the trade have gotten the notice of NBA conspiracy theorists, once a fringe group of fans whose numbers have been steadily increasing over the years. The general thought process seems to be that commissioner David Stern is drunk on power and just wants to show everyone how big his cojones are so he’s just blocking deals for the sake of it, like he allegedly did with the Chris Paul trade in December of 2011 (even though Stern didn’t actually block that trade). This stems from a very poor understanding of the nature of collective bargaining and the NBA’s obligation to their teams.
In this case the key is the simple fact that the NBA has a legal obligation to enforce the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the players and owners. The CBA is a legally binding contract for all parties involved, in the interests of fairness every team needs to abide by the rules set out during the negotiations. Even if it seems like a rule is so small that it does not matter or that the proposed deal is entirely fair and logical, the CBA exists for a reason and the NBA is obligated to make sure that everyone operates within the parameters laid out for them. The NBA can not decide that the CBA applies in some cases and in others it does not so any deal that violates it in even the smallest way can and should be blocked.
The only way the proposed deal between the Celtics and the Clippers can go through is if the Celtics can successfully convince the NBA that they would have let Doc Rivers out of his contract even if the Garnett trade was not done, and at this stage of the negotiations it seems pretty clear that the two deals are connected even if the teams decide to complete one now and another in a few months. If the deal does not go through fans from both teams should not blame Stern or the league office, they should blame the “unnamed sources” who leaked this deal to the press and put the deal in jeopardy. The NBA is just doing their job if they block the deal.