Taylor: NBA owners have discussed franchise player tags

Oct 27 2010 - 5:01pm

MINNEAPOLIS -- As both a guardian of the NBA and the Timberwolves owner, Glen Taylor views the league through bifocals, a perspective that leaves him conflicted about last summer's thunderbolt news.

He sees LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh now united in Miami -- superstars, Olympians and most importantly pals not acquired in their youth or assembled in their old age, but rather gathered together in their absolute primes -- for Tuesday night's NBA opener and he considers it both ways.

One way, of course, is simple self-interest.

The other is accompanied by the lovely ka-ching of jerseys sold, television ratings registered and electronic headlines generated worldwide.

"I hate to see that type of talent move onto one team, it's just good for the league to be competitive," said Taylor, chairman of the NBA's Board of Governors. "But on the other hand, there's nothing that's more of a buzz than this. There's just no question that when they come to your town, everybody is going to want to see them."

For Taylor, the exodus to Miami -- and Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony's expected forced departure sometime soon -- seems problematic because it delivers a message to fans in Toronto, Cleveland, Denver as well as such places as Minnesota and Milwaukee that they don't stand a fighting chance these days attracting and keeping the league's supreme talents.

"I don't know if it will happen more often," Taylor said, "or if that was a unique situation where these players just wanted to do this because of their personal friendship."

Taylor acknowledged NBA owners have discussed the concept of a "franchise player" tag (such as the NFL's) -- a designation that binds a prospective free agent to his current team if certain conditions are met.

NBA commissioner David Stern called the franchise-player tag an "interesting concept" that the league probably will introduce in on-going labor negotiations with the players' union. But he disputed a questioner's notion that the game's greatest players are "dictating" where -- and with whom -- they will play.

In July, New Orleans guard Chris Paul reportedly, playfully suggested in a toast at Anthony's wedding that they someday join Amare Stoudemire in New York City to form their own version of the Heat's trinity that has been dubbed "Superfriends," among other things.

Anthony -- like James, Wade and Bosh last summer -- will be an unrestricted free agent come July. Paul can become one in 2012.

"Players are entitled to get what they bargained for and the union bargains for free agency," Stern said during a conference call with reporters last week. "It's hard for me to buy your premise that somebody who has played for a certain number of years under a contract and is a free agent is thereby dictating where he's going to play. He's exercising his rights."

That collective bargaining, Stern reminded, also allows teams in most cases to trade players without their approval.

"Those are the rules of the game," he said, "and they are bilateral."

James announced his decision to leave Cleveland and his home state of Ohio after seven seasons with the Cavaliers for Miami -- "I'm going to take my talents to South Beach," he said -- in a one-hour special carried by ESPN and called, of course, "The Decision."

Cavs fans immediately burned his jersey in the streets.

Almost as quickly, the Heat instantly became, at least in public perception, the favorite to win this season's NBA title, even if the Los Angeles Lakers are two-time defending champions.

"I've been told by a number of teams that it would be premature for us to mail the trophy to Miami," Stern said.

Still, such a powerful union creates questions about the league's competitive balance.

"I can't deny those couple days were eerie and ugly for me when it all went down," said Denver coach George Karl, who first coached an NBA team in 1984. "I've said I'd sell my soul for a championship. They didn't sell their souls. They just came together and have a hell of a chance to win a championship."

There's no question the Heat has the talent -- James is a two-time MVP and arguably the sport's most dominant player, Wade led Miami to the 2006 title -- to win everything his season, but ...

"Talent is highly overrated in building championships," Karl said. "There are always five to 10 teams that are good enough, but there's chemistry and team and commitment and trust. Talent helps. I think summertime everybody conceded they're going to win the championship, but now I think there's some basketball reasoning come around and at least half the people think L.A. will win the championship.

"I think respecting the champ is where I would fall. But it's yet to be determined."

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