2:50 pm Aug. 16, 20122
The overlawyered thicket known as the N.B.A. Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn't generally keep star players from getting where they want to go.
LeBron James is in Miami. Carmelo Anthony is in New York. Dwight Howard is in Los Angeles.
The agreement does have a heavy impact on players further down the food chain, though. One such player is former Knick Josh Harrellson.
The Knicks drafted Harrellson in the second round last season, and he provided significant production as a rookie. He has a pair of marketable skills in an ability to rebound, and to shoot three pointers. Both would come in handy for the 2012-13 New York Knicks; he'd have had a good shot at a rotation spot coming into training camp.
But the Knicks were forced to deal Harrellson, as one of the few contracts they could trade, to bring Marcus Camby into the fold from the Houston Rockets. Camby wanted more money in a sign-and-trade, and Harrellson was a casualty of making the salaries even, a necessity for every N.B.A. trade, for whatever reason.
At once, Harrellson went from a team without much depth at power forward or perimeter shooters to a Rockets team seemingly made up entirely of power forwards. Still, Harrellson dutifully went to N.B.A. Summer League and played a pair of games, doing what he does, sinking a three-pointer and rebounding at virtually an identical clip as he did during his rookie season.
And then, when the sharpshooter Carlos Delfino needed a salary slot to join the Rockets, Harrellson was the player waived by Houston.
All's well that ends well, right? Harrellson comes back to Madison Square Garden, we all live happily ever after?
Well, no. There's a rule preventing that, too. Since the Knicks traded Harrellson, they cannot sign him until a year after the trade. So a team that could use him, and where he'd be a good fit, is prohibited from doing so.
Harrellson might catch on somewhere else, or he might end up playing in Europe this year. Many of the roster spots he could have taken were filled while he was getting shipped to Houston, where a team that didn't intend to keep him held onto him long enough to make it hard for him to find a spot anywhere else.
A system designed to keep the biggest stars from moving around isn't really helping teams hold onto them. It's not helping lesser-known players like Harrellson, either.