Speculating on the ever-rotating rosters of sports franchises is one the media’s favorite past times. Headline dominating conjecture about Melo and the Nuggets picked up where our obsession with LeBron left off after he announced his decision to leave the Cavs in 2010. The abbreviated 2011-12 season will be no different. Signing and trade rumors began flying as soon as the handshake deal that ended the five-month NBA Lockout was announced over Thanksgiving weekend.
With free agency fast approaching for Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams, the Magic, Hornets and Nets all face franchise-altering decisions. Every organization is structured differently as far as who’s involved in personnel decisions. Some teams want the head coach to be a vital part of the process, while others don’t permit the coach to weigh in at all. Instead they leave the team building chess moves entirely up to the owner, president and general manager.
When faced with the possibility of losing a franchise player, no question the most critical task is to break down all communication barriers by going directly to the source. You can’t rely on third-party negotiations because messages can easily get misconstrued during the back-and-forth. Instead I would start by sitting down to have a candid, face-to-face discussion with the player in question. Look him in the eye and say, “We want you here. We want to build our franchise around you.” Then ask him point blank what he wants to do, “Do you want to be here or not?”
If the player is ready to move on then management has to cut its losses and do what’s best for the team. You have to go after a deal that will get you as much as possible in return for that player. Otherwise you risk being left empty-handed like when Shaq parted ways with Orlando. Best-case scenario you reinvigorate your roster and reinvent your team like George Karl and the Nuggets were able to do through their successful handling of Carmelo Anthony’s departure.
Guys on the team are obviously affected by media speculation, especially those rumored to be on the trading block. The best approach you can take as a coach is to be honest with them. Let them know what you know whenever possible. Hopefully that will help them feel somewhat settled. There’s so much turmoil involved for a player and his family when they have to relocate, so they appreciate it when you keep them in the loop. And the fact is they’re reading about it in the news anyway. The worst thing is when they believe the hype and it’s inaccurate. Being straightforward is the best way to handle this dubious situation.