Five years ago…
The Clippers were involved in the scandal of Donald Sterling. We were talking about a boycott of the players. The whole franchise seemed poisonous.
The Nets entered years of pain. They had traded several future first round selections against Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who quickly refused and left the team in the basement. Brooklyn looked desperate.
Suddenly, the Clippers and Nets are the latest powers in the NBA after off-season coups. Kawhi Leonard signed with the Clippers and convinced Paul George to request an exchange to accompany him. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving joined Brooklyn through free agencies.
This level of group of stars in one summer is unprecedented.
One team added two reigning NBA players in the same season, three times only:
- Clippers 2019: Kawhi Leonard and Paul George
- 2019 Nets: Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving
- Riders 2014: LeBron James and Kevin Love
In 2014, LeBron returned home to Cleveland and launched Love to join him. The Cavs exchanged for Love with the assurance that he would have signed again the following year.
The stories are similar in LA and Brooklyn this year.
Leonard wanted to return to his native California, and George, another California native, was accompanied. Durant might be upset by the idea that he was recruited, but playing near New Jersey is a homecoming for Irving. Durant seems to have a priority to play somewhere with Irving.
The big difference between this year's situation and that of the Cavaliers in 2014: No star has attracted Leonard, George, Durant and Irving to their new teams. Cleveland drew Irving for LeBron and finally Love.
The Clippers were without stars. The Nets no longer have All-Star until Angelo Russell is named alternate, and they do not keep him off when he lands Durant and Irving. (Russell was sent to the warriors in a double sign and exchange.)
This is another way in which these situations are unprecedented.
Only eight teams have added several defending stars in the same off-season since the NBA-ABA merger. The previous six already had a star that helped build the call:
* The Celtics exchanged Thomas for Irving, but Thomas played a key role in recruiting Hayward.
** Pierce was not a star player in 2007 due to an untimely injury, but he was a star player the previous five seasons and the next five seasons and played as one in good health later in 2006- 07. Not counting him as a star in 2007 would only be true as a technical detail.
Yet Leonard and George have chosen to be the stars of the Clippers. Durant and Irving chose to be the stars of the Nets. They did not follow anyone already in place.
This is an unintended consequence of the shorter contracts claimed by the owners. They offer players more opportunities to change teams and enjoy new situations like this one. It is also a continuation of LeBron's exercise of his power, first by joining Wade and Bosh on the Heat, then closing a store in Miami and forming a new super team in the small Cleveland market.
Maybe it can not happen anywhere. It's no coincidence that Clippers and Nets play in the two largest markets.
But the Lakers and Knicks are still the most prestigious franchises in Los Angeles and New York. The Clippers and Nets have not even won a playoff series or a star first to attract others.
This is a new era in the NBA – a time when the best talent is ready to come together and assert itself.
Wherever it is.