Over the past several years, NBA free agents like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and plenty of others have chosen to sign with new teams and received varying levels of backlash from the public.
While the Los Angeles Lakers haven’t managed to recruit any of them yet, team owner Jeanie Buss has taken note of the vitriol some of those players have received for their choices.
Fans have burned the jerseys of free agents that spurned them, taken to social media to harass them and everything in between when their franchise star decided to change workplaces, a situation that would only happen in sports, where people assign far deeper meaning to a job change than any other industry.
During a recent appearance on “The Full 48 with Howard Beck” podcast, Buss outlined her full thoughts on free agency and the way the public reacts to it (while smartly not naming names, given the Lakers’ recent tampering fine epidemic this season):
“You’ve got players who want to play together. Players have earned the right through our collective bargaining to be free agents. At one point in their career, they get to choose where they want to go, or they get to talk to their friends and say, ‘Come here and play.’ This is the rights that they have earned and bargained for. It takes a long time in their career to get an opportunity to have that choice. I think we have to stop free-agent shaming. A free agent, when they choose to leave one city to go someplace else and play for a coach they’ve wanted to play for, or live in a city, they get to choose that. Let them do that. It’s their choice. They’ve earned it.”
Increased freedom in free agency is something players have been fighting for for decades, and Buss is right to note that the players who make it there have as much right to make the right choice for them and their family as anyone else in the world when they look at new employment opportunities.
Buss’ mindset is also one the Lakers front office is hoping players agree with, given their widely-leaked and speculated-upon dreams to add two All-Star free agents over the next two offseasons. If Buss can ingratiate herself to those players as an owner talking up player freedom, all the better for the Lakers brain trust.
Buss making comments favorable to players about free agency on a podcast certainly won’t be what draws James or Paul George or another star to the Lakers, but it can’t hurt to curry a bit of favor or goodwill when possible.