The Chicago Bulls generally don’t like giving contracts with opt-out clauses in them. Carlos Boozer didn’t get one in the huge deal he signed with the team in the summer of 2010. Neither did Joakim Noah or Luol Deng on their big long-term contracts.
For Derrick Rose, however, the Bulls were prepared to make an exception. That’s the sort of clout a Most Valuable Player or any superstar is commonly afforded in the NBA. In fact, the majority of players who are given contracts four years or longer are almost routinely given opt-out clauses. Players like DeSagana Diop, Linas Kleiza, Beno Udith and Charlie Bell have them. Certainly the Bulls were going to bend on Rose if he wanted it as well.
Only, Rose never asked for one.
The five-year, $94 million contract extension Rose signed this week is for the full five years -- the biggest commitment he could’ve made to the team under the new collective bargaining rules.
"Most players of Derrick's stature who are signing contracts, there are usually player options or early termination options within those," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. "Derrick absolutely didn't want that. He wanted a full commitment from the Bulls. To us, that's really special. He stepped up to sign the maximum length."
Kevin Durant made the same move last season when he signed a full five-year agreement with no out with the Oklahoma City Thunder, another team that doesn't usually hand out player options. In an era where top stars have been seeking flexibility and to apply pressure to their teams, the decisions of Rose and Durant signal a significant shift.
“We had it in the contract, it was already negotiated,” said Durant’s agent, Aaron Goodwin. “Kevin asked us to take it out. He said the team was fully committed to him and that he should be fully committed to the team.”
So Durant is, through 2016.
This marks a significant deviation from how superstars approach their long-term futures. In 2006, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all decided to accept maximum level contracts that allowed them to be free agents after just three years. Chris Paul and Deron Williams did the same when they signed their max contracts in 2008.
Three years later, James, Bosh, Williams and Paul are all on different teams.
Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard signed max deals between 2005-07, but all got opt-out clauses after four years. Stoudemire used his out to leave the Suns a year early and signed with the Knicks in the 2010 offseason. Anthony used the threat of opting out to force the Denver Nuggets to trade him. Now, Howard is using the same strategy with the Orlando Magic.
The shorter contracts and options to terminate the contract early applied tremendous pressure to that group of stars’ various teams and provided the players with maximum leverage. This, of course, was the point. The stars wanted as much control as possible.
This came on the heels of an era where contracts were permitted to be signed up to seven years or longer and, as a result led to players feeling trapped in bad situations. Kevin Garnett's deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves is a prime example. That is why Garnett, the night James played his last game with the Cavs, warned James that loyalty wasn’t always the smartest thing for a star.
So in 2006, the young stars felt they were bucking that trend and setting a new standard. James, Bosh and Wade were represented by the same agency and they had formulated the plan together. Even Wade, just days removed from winning a championship with the Heat in 2006, extended his deal with Miami for only three more years.
But there was another consequence. Their teams struggled under the weight of the short leashes. It made some teams spend wildly on short-term moves because they were afraid to lose their star, which happened in Cleveland with James and now in Orlando with Howard. It didn’t work in either case, though the Magic are still spending in an effort to change Howard’s mind.
For two consecutive years the Suns let their fans and other players twist in the wind as they mulled moving Stoudemire at the trade deadline for fear of his approaching free agency. The Nuggets were derailed last season by Anthony’s demands.
Afraid of having their season affected what happened in Denver, the New Orleans Hornets dumped Paul just two years after his once celebrated maximum extension kicked in. As part of the deal, Paul picked up the option in his contract for the 2012-13 season. But the Los Angeles Clippers are now on the clock -- one more year and Paul again has the power.
When Wade, James and Bosh all signed with the Heat it was for six years and more than $100 million. At the time, James talked about winning six or seven titles. But their deals were structured to allow all of them to have opt outs after both the fourth and fifth seasons (2014-15 and 2015-16). The clock in Miami will start ticking soon.
“I’m not sure if how we handled things changed any of the guys, everyone had the chance to make their own choices,” James said. “That is for [the media] to decide if we changed things.”
The Bulls and Thunder are both considered championship contenders at the moment. But things in the NBA are always fragile, teams see rapid changes in fortune regularly. What both teams do know is that they have received six-year commitments from their star players (both Durant and Rose signed extensions early, adding five years to their final season of their rookie contracts).
“I think that Derrick and Kevin are just cut from a different cloth than some of the other guys in the league,” Goodwin said. “I’m not sure it is something that will change the way stars look at getting deals.”
We may find out soon enough. Next up for major extensions are Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love.
Given the recent actions of Durant and Rose, the upcoming decisions of the up-and-coming stars may have a much larger impact.