NBA players explain what it's like to be mentioned in trade rumors

NBA players explain what it's like to be mentioned in trade rumors

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NBA players explain what it's like to be mentioned in trade rumors

Several years ago, an Eastern Conference team made several mid-season trades and each of the players remaining on the roster were worried that they’d be the next person dealt before the trade deadline. Some of the players who had been traded were notable names, so the general consensus in the locker room was, “If they were willing to trade those guys, we could definitely be next.”

Fans and media love trade season. It’s fun to follow all the different rumors and moves, but what’s it like to be a player during this period? How does it feel when it’s your name in the rumor mill as the trade deadline approaches? There aren’t many jobs where, without any notice or explanation, you can be sent to a different organization across the country.

When players are traded, they often leave their families behind and stay in a hotel (paid for by their new team) for quite a while until they get settled in their new city. It’s a strange time that requires a lot of adjusting.

With the Feb. 23 deadline approaching, we asked several players what it’s like to hear their name in trade rumors, how it can become a distraction and how it impacts a player’s individual production as well as the team’s performance.

“I’ve seen two things,” 14-year NBA veteran Caron Butler said. “I’ve seen guys go harder on the court to show their value, and I’ve seen guys say, ‘Fuck it,’ and not care at all. It’s absolutely a distraction because chemistry is at stake. A player may think, ‘Why should I care about these guys or wins or losses if I’m not going to be here?’”

Oct 28, 2015; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings forward Caron Butler (31) looks to the Los Angeles Clippers bench after a basket during the third quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Sacramento Kings 111-104. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

One common sentiment shared by players is that a dishonest front office can only make things worse. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to trade talks, because lies only create more tension and drama.

“It depends on the way the front office staff communicates with that certain player,” Sacramento Kings guard Garrett Temple said. “A lot of times, guys just want to be told the truth – no matter what that is. What upsets guys the most is when the GM or personnel people are saying one thing to their face and doing something totally different behind the scenes.”

“What really causes team chemistry issues is when the front office hides [things] or lies about certain rumors,” former Denver Nuggets forward Jarnell Stokes added. “Word travels fast. I’ve yet to see a trade affect a team negatively based on chemistry, but it can affect individual players.”

Stokes did add that sometimes a trade can be welcomed in a locker room, since NBA players are extremely competitive and want to win. If a deal brings in more talent and improves the roster, players may see the move as beneficial. However, some may still be upset (especially if the outgoing player was a locker-room favorite or veteran leader).

A few players pointed out that being mentioned in trade rumors is just part of being in the NBA, and most have come to terms with the fact that they could be dealt at any second.

“The mindset for most NBA players is, ‘Hey if you’re not one of the Top 2 guys, you can be traded,’” 11-year NBA veteran Dorell Wright said. “Anyone can be traded. Guys know who’s untouchable – the guys they’re building the team around. If you’re not one of the Top 2, you should understand, ‘Hey, I can be moved.’ And sometimes the writing is on the wall. If your team is underachieving, you should know, ‘They might blow this up.’”

“I think it can be a distraction if you let it be,” Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless said. “Guys know it’s possible and at any moment they could be next, but it comes with the territory, I guess. At the end of the day, we all understand the business side of it and we just focus on what we can control. At least, that’s the way I look at it.”

“[Whether a player lets it become a distraction] depends on what type of guy you’re dealing with and how mature he is,” Temple said.

According to the players, the general rule in NBA locker rooms is that trade rumors shouldn’t be discussed.

“Guys really don’t talk about it,” Wright said. “Guys just do their job until they get that call. I’ve never been on a team where people spoke up about [rumors] if they heard something. Everyone hears about it, they just don’t speak about it.”

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“I don’t think it hurts the locker room; if anything, it becomes a distraction to individual players,” 16-year veteran Rashard Lewis said. “When your name is in trade rumors but the team hasn’t told you anything about being traded, you walk around on egg shells until the deadline. As a player, you don’t show or talk about it. But in the back of your mind, you’re always thinking about it.”

Wright pointed out that young players are more likely to be affected by trade rumors, since they’re just starting to learn that the NBA can be a cut-throat business. It’s also tougher on them because they have no idea what it’s like to be traded and what the future holds.

“These guys are getting younger and younger,” Wright said. “It might be a sensitive subject when these guys really don’t understand the business. [Eventually, you learn] it’s not always a big deal getting traded.”

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that NBA players are people too. They worry about their job performance, stress about their future and fear that they could be replaced. As the Feb. 23 trade deadline approaches, this is something to keep in mind.

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