Friday February 18th, 2011

Welcome to NBA All-Star weekend! We hope you enjoy all our great events -- the Celebrity Game, the Rookie Challenge, the Three-point Shootout, the Dunk Contest and, of course, the Carmelo Anthony Job Hunt, Presented By Kinko's.

According to various reports, Anthony, the Nuggets' star, will meet with Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov while he is in Los Angeles. Anthony might also meet with Knicks owner Jim Dolan at some point. (Hint to Carmelo: If you want Dolan to trade for you, tell him your middle name is "Isiah.")

And this leads me to one subtle question: HAS THE NBA LOST ITS MIND?

Carmelo Anthony, one of the most recognizable stars in the league, is conducting job interviews with other teams in the middle of the season.

This is not just a farce. It is a league-approved farce. And it is another example of something that drives people inside the NBA crazy: the perception that the league selectively enforces its rules.

Players are not allowed to request trades publicly. Consider: When Nate Robinson played for the Knicks (or, more accurately, when Robinson was NOT playing for the Knicks), his agent, Aaron Goodwin, said he had requested a trade. Robinson was fined $25,000.

When Stephen Jackson played for the Warriors, he told people at a charity event that he was "looking to leave" Golden State. This was not a secret to the Warriors. He said it during the summer, before training camp began. The NBA fined him $25,000.

And when Rudy Fernandez's agent, Andy Miller, publicly said Fernandez would rather play in Europe than for the Trail Blazers, the Spanish guard got slapped with a $25,000 fine.

In all three instances, the NBA issued a statement explaining that the players were fined for "for public statements detrimental to the NBA."

And, of course, owners are not allowed to tamper with other teams' players. Heck, last year, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had the audacity to say, "Come July 1, yeah, of course, anybody would be interested in LeBron James," which might have been the least controversial statement Cuban has ever made, and the NBA fined him $100,000. He spoke publicly about wanting another team's player. That's a no-no.

Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony can talk to owners about switching teams, and David Stern just whistles and pretends he doesn't see anything. It's all OK, because Anthony has not publicly said, "I want to be traded."

Presumably, Prokhorov (and potentially Dolan) has the Nuggets' and league's approval to talk to Anthony. And if I chose to meet with Jim Dolan because I wanted to work for him, I'd fine myself. That isn't the point. This entire episode has made a mockery of the Nuggets' season. It has put other important Denver players, most of the Nets' roster and both teams' fan bases in a terrible spot. But, hey, as long as Anthony doesn't publicly say, "I want a trade," then the NBA has no problem with it.

The NBA should look at its collective bargaining agreement. Section 35(e): "Any Player who, directly or indirectly, entices, induces, persuades or attempts to entice, induce, or persuade any Player, Coach, Trainer, General Manager or any other person who is under contract to any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiates or contracts for such services shall, on being charged with such tampering."

That is exactly what is happening here. It's not a secret. And it's a joke. Can somebody really tell me that Cuban's saying that anybody would want to have the best player in the NBA is bad for the league, but Anthony's interviewing for other jobs in the middle of the season is not?

This is the NBA in 2011, where players are required to show absolute loyalty to their employers 100 percent of the time, except when they aren't.

And in a league full of conspiracy theorists, you can be sure folks are taking note: By letting Anthony talk to other owners, the NBA is increasing the chances of having one of its marquee names play in its biggest market. I'm not saying that's why Stern is letting this happen. I'm saying it looks like that is why he is letting this happen.

The NBA never should have let it get to this point. It is a players' league, and it's mostly a say-what-you-want, do-what-you-want league, especially compared to the NFL. I love that about the NBA. But it's also a league that enforces the letter of the law on a Tuesday and the spirit of the law on Thursday and ignores both on Wednesday.

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