Between Feb. 2 and Feb. 21 of this year, 31 NBA players were traded.
The final hours for teams to complete deals may have been somewhat anticlimactic – mainly because Paul George and Jimmy Butler stayed put – but factor in the weeks leading up to the deadline and this was a relatively active trade period.
DeMarcus Cousins, arguably the NBA’s best center, was dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans in a shocking blockbuster. Significant contributors such as Nerlens Noel, Serge Ibaka, Lou Williams, Jusuf Nurkic, Taj Gibson, PJ Tucker, Bojan Bogdanovic, Ersan Ilyasova and Mason Plumlee were moved as well.
With so many players around the NBA getting acclimated to a new situation, HoopsHype wanted to find out what it’s like to be traded midseason. We asked several players who have been dealt in the middle of an NBA campaign about that experience and how it affected them on and off the court.
Players know they can be shipped away at any time; that comes with the territory as a professional athlete. But it doesn’t change the fact that a midseason move can be stressful for a player and his family. Even if the individual is happy about the trade and excited to join his new organization, the transition period is often difficult. It’s tough to adjust to a new city, team, coaching staff, system and culture, especially on the fly in the middle of the crazy NBA schedule.
Four players who have been through a midseason trade – Jamal Crawford, Iman Shumpert, Anthony Morrow and Cameron Payne – discussed the transition to their new squad.
- Crawford was traded from the New York Knicks to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Al Harrington on Nov. 21, 2008.
- Shumpert was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 5, 2015. It was a three-team deal that also included the New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder. In addition to Shumpert, JR Smith and a 2016 first-round pick went to Cleveland, Dion Waiters went to Oklahoma City and Lou Amundson, Lance Thomas, Alex Kirk and a 2019 second-round pick went to New York.
- Payne and Morrow were traded just hours before this year’s deadline, along with Joffrey Lauvergne, from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and a 2018 second-round pick.
- This was Morrow’s second time being traded in a deadline-day deal; the other was in 2013 when the Atlanta Hawks sent him to the Dallas Mavericks for Dahntay Jones.
What was your initial reaction when you found out you were traded?
Crawford: “I was shocked more than anything, to be honest with you, because I hadn’t heard anything about a trade. I’m averaging 20 points, so it’s not even something I was thinking about. I was thinking, ‘Oh man, this is fun. Everything is going great. It’s cool.’ I’m wondering, ‘What if Zach [Randolph] and I can make an All-Star team for the first time?’ Then, I’m traded. It caught me off guard more than anything. I remember the day after it happened, I was almost in a state of shock. Like, did this really happen? Is this real? It was almost like it was a dream or not real. The shock was the biggest thing I remember and something that’s hard to explain. It’s very difficult [to go through a midseason trade]. It’s like going to a new school, so to speak. You have new ‘classmates’ you have to meet and so many new things that you have to learn. When you go to a new team, you’re in a new city, in a new system and, while you get to know other players somewhat from playing in the league for years, you’re adjusting to them as your new teammates. It’s really different.”
Shumpert: “I was never the new kid in school or anything, so this was the closest thing for me to changing schools and going through that. For me, it would’ve been cool if [things ended differently with the Knicks]. I was hurt when I got traded, so it would’ve been cool for me if I had at least gotten to play my last games with them. I was sitting out for like a month and by the time I got traded, it was a deflating feeling, especially with that season that we were having. I felt like I didn’t get a chance to help get us out of the hole, you know what I mean? (winces) I just felt bad and felt like we had dropped a bunch of games. I felt bitter that I had to leave on such a bad note. I just remember the feeling [sucked]. It was like, ‘Ah, I’m hurt, we’ve lost a bunch of games in a row and then I’m traded.’ Then, shortly after we walk in and we get to playing with the Cavs, we go on a long winning streak. I kept thinking back to my old teammates like, ‘Damn, I was hurt and we were losing. Now I come here and I’m playing well and the energy is great.’ I just felt like they kind of grabbed me out of hell. And every game was being showcased on TV and we’re winning. It was just crazy. I was happy, but I felt bad too.”
Payne: “It was crazy, man. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I was talking to so many different people, trying to figure out what to do. I found out [about the trade] when I was scrolling on Twitter. I was checking it constantly, just reloading, reloading, reloading. Because I kept hearing my name constantly, so I figured, ‘Let me check out Twitter.’ And there it was: ‘Cam got traded.’ It’s a business. It was hard. I mean, obviously, I didn’t play that much, but leaving [Oklahoma City] was tough because of all the relationships that I had built up. They drafted me and I was blessed that they gave me that opportunity. But now I have to move on. One of the main things I believe is that everything happens for a reason, so I’m going to take this opportunity and run with it.”
Morrow: “That first day [after being traded to Chicago last month] was rough. That’s where it helps to be traded with teammates. It even helped me to have Cam and Joffrey going through it with me. But it was crazy, coming in to a back-to-back on a new team and not even having enough clothes with you for the week. It was crazy, but it was a good experience for Cam since he’s young. That’s how you learn what this league is about – that it’s a business and you have to be able to move whenever. It’s good that it happened to him when he’s young because just in case it happens again in the future, he’ll know how to deal with it even better.”
Payne: “[My first impression] has been great. Everyone is hard-working, that’s the first and main thing I’ve noticed here. Everybody out here loves winning and it’s a great group of guys. The city is really nice. I love it. It’s really big, so that alone makes it different from Oklahoma. There are a lot more food options too. It’s cool. And it’s crazy to have that Bulls emblem on. I keep thinking, ‘Man, Michael Jordan played here,’ and little things like that. I mean, it’s crazy. I’m real close to his number too [with No. 22]! It’s just a blessing to be a part of this organization. It’s definitely a good opportunity. Getting out there and playing more minutes just automatically boosts your confidence. The more minutes I play, the more comfortable I get. This opportunity could be great for me. In Oklahoma City, there wasn’t as much of an opportunity. I got my chances, but they were very slim because Russ [Westbrook] played over 150 games. It was all good, though. I just appreciate this opportunity.”
What’s the toughest part about being dealt midseason?
Morrow: “For someone like me, I’m 31 years old and have a family. I just had twin boys who are five months old and I have a 4-year-old. So I had to tell them, and that was hard. Telling my 4-year-old was really tough because he was OKC everything [and loved the Thunder]. I had to explain it to him. I’m blessed that it wasn’t a huge adjustment for them. It’s just tough not being with them right now, especially when you have 5-month-old twins. But it’s cool… (sighs) We’ve been doing a lot of FaceTiming. It’s not the same, but they’re going to come visit me soon. But that’s the main thing people don’t understand about midseason trades. Imagine being at home and then just having to leave and how that affects the family and everything. It can be hard.”
Crawford: “I think the hardest thing is [how it impacts] your family. When you have kids, there’s a good chance that at that point you’ll be separated from them for a period of time. When you’re moved in the middle of the season, the kids are in school and you don’t want to just uproot your family like that. That’s always one of the most difficult things about this. When you’re young and you aren’t married and you don’t have kids, it’s different. It’s a just totally different feeling when you’re married and have kids since your family is involved too.”
Payne: “It really has been crazy. No one really gets what the experience is like. I mean, this is my first time going through it. I’ve only known and played for one team, so now being here is definitely different. It’s been fun, but the only thing I don’t like is living in the hotel. Man, I wish I could sleep in my own bed. That’s really been the main thing. It gets hard to sleep a little bit. I wish I had my bed. That’s one of the worst things about being traded: living the hotel. It’s a great hotel, for sure, but it’s not my home.”
Shumpert: “Off the court, you’re staying in a hotel and then have to find somewhere to live and then you have to start learning your way around a new city. If you have a family, you have to get your family set up. Some players have, like, a chef and then those things change. I remember when I first got here [to Cleveland], there were some times when I was trying so hard to stick to my normal pre-game routine, but it’s hard. The time it takes to get to the arena is different from what I was used to in New York, so I’m trying my best not to be late to anything. You’re getting everywhere just barely on time because you [have to factor in] that you may have trouble finding the place. The good thing about coming here was that the guys sort of made light of it because they know what it’s like and know it’s hard to adjust. Fortunately, I had a lot of the guys on the team that I already knew too. Me and Kyrie [Irving] have always been close. To relax, I could go to his house instead of being in my hotel room all the time. It was nice going to an actual house; it helped and things slowed down and I felt more normal.”
Cameron is going through this for the first time as a 22-year-old. What advice would you guys offer to a guy like Cam who is experiencing this for the first time at a young age?
Crawford: “My advice would just be to get lost in the game. Get lost in the game and getting to know your teammates. Also, when you are home for a couple days, try to explore the city a little bit. Go drive to the practice facility and drive to the arena even when you don’t have to be there, so you can see how long it’ll take. Try to find a good route, as well as alternate routes, and just drive around the city as much as you can. That way you can have some type of familiarity. It’s always a little bit tougher to do it midseason, but you’ll get used to everything in time.”
Morrow: “My advice for Cam has been to just focus on basketball. He has a good family behind him, and his family is actually out here with him, so that helps. He’s a younger player, but I’ve just told him to keep focusing on basketball, keep playing, keep working hard. Obviously, they like him because he’s playing a lot. The main thing on the court is just letting the game come to you. He’s doing a better job of that. I think he really has fit in perfectly with this team and that definitely helps. The more he plays, the more comfortable he’ll feel, but he has done a great job. He’s mature beyond his years, so he’s handling everything really well. Anytime I get a chance to drop some [wisdom] on him and help him out with different things on and off the court, I try to do that, but he’s doing a good job.”
What are some things that fans don’t understand or know about midseason trades?
Morrow: “There’s a lot that people don’t realize. The family part is hardest. But you’re staying in a hotel and living out of suitcases. I was in the cold tub and I find out I get traded, so now it [changes] my whole life. I went back to my house, got ready for a 7 am flight and was on 45 minutes of sleep. I was trying to get everything organized and it’s just crazy.”
Shumpert: “Basketball-wise, it takes a while to just adjust and understand what role your new team needs you to play and how they want to use you. You have to know what they want you to do when you’re on the court. A lot of fans don’t know how many [additional] things a lot of players around the league can do because they’ve only seen them in whatever role their team needs them to play. Sometimes, you get to see a lot more from a guy; you see what they can really do if they’re put in the right position to be successful. I think that’s the biggest thing with coming over to a new team – how they evaluate you and how they feel they can use you based on the make-up of the team. That determines a lot. Your new team may have a different make-up or have a different structure or things like that, and you just have to see how they’re going to implement you into their system.”
Crawford: “It’s difficult because you’re in limbo. You’re either looking around for an apartment or you’re living out of the hotel. And if you’re looking for a place, you’re having to do that in the midst of traveling and still playing basketball at a high level. All of this stuff is happening [behind the scenes], but you still have to perform out there in games. Getting a place is good though and can help your adjustment because you start to get comfortable, get a sense of normalcy. Then, you start to learn the streets a little bit. You learn the best ways to drive to get to games and to get to practice and things like that. That’s when things start to feel a little bit more normal. But sometimes, by the time you’re comfortable, the season is winding down. … It took me a while to get acclimated with the Warriors. It took time. I was traded in November and I think by the time I really started to get acclimated and comfortable, the season was just about over. It took a while, for sure.”
Payne: “You have to build new relationships with guys you don’t know, learn a whole new set of plays, figure out a whole new set of personalities and it’s just different. I was with one group of guys and [doing things the same way] for my first two years in the NBA and now, all of a sudden, everything gets switched up. The biggest thing for me has just been learning the different personalities and getting to know the guys I’m playing with now, especially as a point guard. You have to know that, as well as all of the plays, where guys like to get the ball, the guys’ strengths and all of that. There’s a lot that goes into the adjustment.”
When you’re traded midseason as a young guy, is it helpful to join a team that has a lot of veterans?
Shumpert: “Yeah, having so many veterans helped, especially with the professionalism. Each guy knew their body, knew that they had to come in and get certain work done. There’s really no in-between times or joking around or room for errors. Everyone pretty much has their head on straight and [is focused]. Then, after practice, guys have to go home to their families. When guys come in, it’s to get their work done and there’s a level of seriousness. I was definitely ready to win, I was ready for that [kind of atmosphere]. You can do that with a younger team too – I’m not saying you have to have an older team [to be focused and win] – but there was definitely a difference in the culture when I came here. And understandably so, with all of the veterans we had in locker room.”
Payne: “All three of the veteran leaders – [Rajon] Rondo, Jimmy [Butler] and [Dwyane] Wade – have done a great job trying to get me comfortable as quick as possible and trying to give me confidence. They’ve been telling me, ‘Shoot the ball! Shoot the ball!’ It always feels good when someone is telling you that and [putting trust in you]. I’m adjusting pretty quickly.”
Does it help when a teammate is dealt alongside you to the new team?
Shumpert: “Oh man, it definitely helps coming over with a teammate. [JR] Swish, even since we were in New York together, has always helped me out as far as what this league will throw at you. It’s definitely a lot easier to get traded with someone you know. You’re never feeling like you’re in one of those modes where you’re completely detached from the rest of the team because you’re not the only new guy.”
Morrow: “It’s good to be traded with some guys that you know. Like, me and Joffrey have tried to help Cam a lot. I was traded by myself [from the Hawks to the Mavericks in 2013] and it was really different. I was moving around, navigating through the city of Dallas alone. We have each other [for support] this time.”
For more behind-the-scenes coverage of trades, we asked NBA players what it’s like to hear their name in rumors and we asked NBA executives to walk us through how trades are negotiated and completed.
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