Stern on stars who strong-arm

Fans in a growing list of cities are upset that superstars under contract have been holding franchises hostage. Carmelo Anthony had the Nuggets in the palm of his hand last season. Dwight Howard is turning the screws on the Magic right now.

And Chris Paul just forced the Hornets to trade a superstar they would have preferred to keep.

It's a complex issue I have written about several times before.

But what's fascinating about the Paul trade is that the final decision rested with none other than David Stern -- the very man who dedicated a summer of labor negotiations to seeing to it 30 teams have an opportunity to be competitive. In the eyes of many fans, that's exactly what is ending, now that so many stars are flocking together.

In a leaguewide conference call Wednesday evening, I asked Stern about it, and his position is a pragmatic one informed by the reality that so long as there is free agency, which Stern says he believes in, players will have powers like these:

A lot of NBA observers are alarmed by the number of big trades that are driven by superstars appearing to take their teams hostage to force their way where they want to go. Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, now Chris Paul. Is there anything that should be done to fix that, or are you happy with that the way it is?

You know, we're accepting of the fact that a team has a job to do, that it tries to make itself as strong as it can.

And also, when a player has the opportunity to play out his contract and not go anyplace, not stay at the team, that's his option.

We think over time with the five-year difference -- with a five-year contract to give your own free agent and the seven-and-a-half-percent increases, that instead of the four-year and the four-and-a-half-percent increases, so we have a three percent difference, that there will be teams that say to their player, you know, you can play it out this year, but we're intent upon keeping you and we can pay you -- if you're a top player -- probably $30 million more.

So we're not that worried about it in the long run.

But we accept the concept of free agency, and that's a bedrock, and I've been supportive of that. So I think we're always going to have some element of a player saying to his team, I don't want to continue in this place, I want to play out my contract, and I would like you to see whether there's someplace else for me to play and you get value for me.