A couple weeks ago, Portland Trail Blazers guard Brian Roberts was Charlotte Hornets guard Brian Roberts. And for fewer than 48 hours between those two stints, he was briefly Miami HEAT guard Brian Roberts. He laughs about it now, but it’s a miracle he remembers which NBA players are actually his current teammates on a day-to-day basis at this point.
Knowing how much he’s moved around this month, it’s probably a good thing that he’s chuckling because the whole process was understandably pretty confusing for him.
“Initially, I thought that first trade was to Memphis,” Roberts told Basketball Insiders. “But my agent called me back a couple minutes later and told me it was actually Miami. It’s kind of overwhelming, even though you know the trade deadline is coming and you try to prep yourself that anything could happen. Until you actually get the call, you don’t really let it sink in that you’re moving.”
Miami made the initial trade, that complicated three-team deal sending Courtney Lee to Charlotte, because it helped them cut some salary and some tax, with Roberts making a couple million dollars fewer than the outgoing Chris “Birdman” Andersen.
Roberts would have cut Miami’s tax bill a bit, but trading him a second time, recouping a second-round pick in the process after packaging two to clear Andersen’s salary, put them below the luxury tax line and saved them about $6 million on the year.
The player, though, had no idea about how all the money worked. He legitimately thought he was off to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
“Miami is a first-class organization with championship aspirations every year,” Roberts said. “I was excited to be a part of that, that culture. They were fifth in the East at that point, or somewhere around there, so they were trying to lock in one of those upper seeds in the playoffs. I thought it was a good opportunity to be on a big-time, big-market team. I was excited.”
The NBA is a business, though, as anybody close to the game knows, and it was worth $6 million to HEAT ownership to send Roberts away for practically nothing.
“I was in Miami for a day and a half. That was it,” Roberts said with a grin. “I went down the Wednesday of that week in the afternoon, which was right on time to watch practice, and on Thursday morning I actually practiced with them. We prepped for Atlanta because that’s where we were going to play on Friday. I answered questions after practice with the media who were asking me how it feels to be the new HEAT player and what can I bring to the team and those types of questions. I told them I was just happy to be there.
“But then I’m sitting in the locker room after practice and I get another call from my agent telling me not to get on the plane to Atlanta. It was pretty wild.”
That second deal was the one that shipped him to Portland, where he’ll play out the rest of his season and his current contract.
“We’re playing well. There’s no question about it,” Roberts said about his new team. “The whole league is taking notice to what Portland is doing, and it’s really exciting around the city right now. I don’t think much was expected of them at this point, so they’re proving a lot of people wrong. It’s exciting and fun to be a part of that.”
The uncertainty isn’t over for Roberts, either. His contract ends whenever the Blazers’ season does, which means he could end up on his fourth team of the calendar year by mid-summer. Whether he ends up in Portland long-term or somewhere else, he already has his head wrapped around the uncertainty of his potential future employer.
Undrafted, having spent his first couple of years out of college playing in Europe, Roberts knows it’s good enough just to have a job playing ball, and he feels pretty confident that he’ll have one in the NBA when the dust settles this summer.
“I’ll be a free agent at the end of this season, but I feel like I’m a guy that whatever opportunities I get I’m going to make the most of it,” he said. “I’ve proven that throughout my career, the last four years in the NBA, I’m a guy who works hard and tries to be a positive role player on my team. I’m reliable, and that’s what it comes down to in this league. If you can be dependable every night, you’ll have a job.”
Meanwhile, he’s holed up in a Portland-area hotel, following a short stay in a Miami-area hotel. He has no immediate plans to get a mortgage anywhere or even sign a lease on an apartment. Based on how things have gone for him the last couple of weeks, who can blame him?
“I’m not buying a house just yet,” Roberts joked. “The hotel is fine for me right now.”
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