Last fall, NBA Commissioner David Stern disputed a questioner's notion and its ramifications that his game's greatest agents increasingly are dictating where and with whom their clients will play.

This was not that long after three superstars decided to gather together in Miami and call themselves the Heatles.

Stern, a lawyer through and through, called it simply "the rules of the game," players exercising their rights obtained through labor collective bargaining to become free agents.

Let's see if those rules change now that Carmelo Anthony last week finally forced a trade from Denver to the New York Knicks and the next day Utah made a pre-emptive strike by suddenly sending All-Star guard Deron Williams to New Jersey before he could leave the Jazz in the summer of 2012.

Stern and NBA owners certainly can hear the lovely ka-ching of more jerseys sold, television ratings registered and electronic headlines generated worldwide as the parade of superstars to major media markets -- and a transfer of power from West to East -- continues.

"We knew we were starting something," said LeBron James, who started last summer's free-agent dominos tumbling when he decided to leave Cleveland and team with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. "We knew we were starting a trend. Teams were going to have to load up because the competition level was rising.

"Everybody is bringing their talents to the East," he told reporters last week. "I think it's great for the NBA, the fact that the Knicks are back. The Celtics have been back for the last few years. And all the other teams are trying to compete. I think it's great."

Tell that to fans in Cleveland, Denver, Toronto, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Sacramento, New Orleans, Orlando or anywhere that isn't Miami, New York, Los Angeles or Chicago.

Anthony is gone from Denver after eight seasons there.

Williams is gone from Utah just days after coach Jerry Sloan walked off into retirement.

There already has been plenty of speculation that New Orleans' Chris Paul and Orlando's Dwight Howard could be the next to force themselves to their desired destination in 2012.

And don't think Timberwolves fans aren't already predicting that Kevin Love eventually will bolt for a warmer clime and a winning franchise rather than negotiate a contract extension next fall.

That's why you can expect team owners to propose something similar to the NFL's franchise-player tag -- which binds one upcoming unrestricted free agent to his current franchise if current conditions are met -- during this summer's negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement with players.

James said he thinks last week's signature moves are great for the league, but Indiana's Danny Granger doesn't agree.

"I don't think it's good for the league," Granger told the Indianapolis Star. "It hurts a team like us tremendously if everybody can pick where they want to go. No chance at all for us."

The Pacers have created the salary-cap space to spend big on free agents this summer, but...

"Who would want to come here as a free agent?" Granger asked. "Any small-market team will have that problem. If the trend is to go to the better city, you got teams like us, Milwaukee, Minnesota who don't have a shot."