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Behind the Scenes: NBA Trade Deadline from Different Perspectives

What is a typical trade deadline like for a player, an agent and an executive? We found out.

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This article originally ran in January of 2014 as part of Basketball Insiders’ Trade Deadline Magazine.

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The NBA trade deadline is an exciting time for fans. You read the latest trade rumors involving your favorite team, search through Twitter for the latest news and watch the clock as the deadline approaches to see if your franchise makes a move. It’s a fun day for fans – both diehard and casual.

But what is the trade deadline like for the parties who are actually involved? What is that 24-hour period like for players, executives and agents?

Basketball Insiders wanted to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the deadline from each perspective so we sat down with a player, executive and agent to pick their brain.

The Player Perspective

Chris Kaman was dealt to New Orleans in 2011 and has heard his name surface in trade rumors countless times over the years. He discussed what it was like being traded and how players deal with the deadline.

“It’s just part of the business. There are people trying to save money, people trying to make money, people trying to get draft picks, there’s so many different angles that teams are playing. Each team makes their own decisions based upon that. You see teams trying to dump players right before the deadline and dump money. It’s just a business thing, I think, for the most part. Most times it’s financial, and a few teams it’s probably about getting better. It’s hard to get a good player because most teams that have a good player don’t want to get rid of them.

Initially, my first few times (being mentioned in trade rumors) it was kind of stressful. I didn’t know all the ropes. I didn’t know how to respond. I just didn’t know anything about it. I was wet behind the ears and didn’t know what to anticipate or what to expect, so I was kind of in a panic all the time until it didn’t happen and then the deadline came. Now it’s like, if you want to trade me, that’s fine, that’s part of the business. I’m kind of ready for it if it happens. Now I don’t think about it anymore, I just play. You can’t worry about that stuff. If you worry about that stuff, you’re going to go insane if you think about it.

It’s hard because as players, we have emotions like humans have emotions. It’s not emotions for them, it’s more financial. Does this make sense for them financially? And that’s all it is to them. You’re like a commodity or like a stock. ‘He’s down, let’s trade him.’ Or, ‘He’s up, let’s trade him and get our money out of him.’ Or whatever it is, it’s a business. The hard part is looking at it with emotions and as a person, trying not to get your feelings involved because that’s the worst way to do it. But still, you have a vested interest a lot of times and it’s not easy to just be numb to it and be like a robot. I understand it and I guess guys should understand it more, but these young guys don’t understand it. You don’t want to taint them and say, ‘It’s just a business, don’t worry about it’ but it really boils down to money. It’s the bottom line. It’s about money. If you’re doing a good job and they like you, then they’re going to keep you and they’re going to pay you. If you’re up and down, then they might get rid of you. There are so many things that come into play.”

The Executive Perspective

David Morway, who is the assistant general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks and former general manager of the Indiana Pacers, discussed what a typical trade deadline is like for him and his staff:

“It can be very hectic. You always do your homework on every team to make sure there isn’t something you might be missing that could help your roster. You have to be prepared for anything.  But as I am sure you are aware, many times, nothing happens. You may even think you are close to something happening, but for myriad reasons, nothing comes to fruition.

(The 24 hours before the deadline) are definitely stressful and can be exciting. Whenever you are talking about making a change, there is always stress that goes along with that. You are impacting your franchise, even if it is in a small way, there is an impact there. The exciting part comes after you make a deal – when you see the player or players you acquired helping your team in the way you envisioned.

Sometimes, what you think is a casual discussion may be interpreted by the other party as substantive, and vice versa. A lot of it depends on what is going on with not only your team, but other teams as well. What are their needs? What are their problems or areas of concern? Can we address those for them while getting an asset we like? What’s going on with us? Some seasons you may have several legitimate discussions going on while other seasons there may be not a lot to talk about. It just depends on your situation and the market place at that particular time.

(The biggest misconception is) probably that all front offices are on their phones 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until midnight every night, trying to hammer out a deal. Don’t get me wrong – we all work extremely hard, make calls, do our due diligence and make sure no stone goes unturned. However, I think some fans believe the phone is just ringing off the hook all day and night for weeks. Sometimes that might be the case, but usually it is not. Sometimes the best move to make is no move at all.”

The Agent Perspective

Roger Montgomery of Montgomery Sports Group has represented NBA players for over a decade. Several of his clients have been traded at the deadline, such as Desmond Mason and Maurice Evans.

“Around the trade deadline, I’m monitoring the wire services and making phone calls. We all have allies in front offices so we’re talking to those executives to see if there’s any chatter about our guys. But generally it gets really quiet right around the deadline. It’s sometimes difficult to get the pulse from a GM because they’re really busy and have potential deals lined up. A lot of times you really don’t have a lot of dialogue (with teams). That’s been my experience. You’re kind of at their mercy, waiting to see what may or may not happen. Unless, of course, you’re in a situation where you know your player is going to get moved and you’ve been working with the team to get him moved. Otherwise, you’re really just waiting. You’re waiting for that deadline to pass to see whether or not you’re going to get a call. Whether it’s exciting or stressful really depends on if the player wants to be moved or not.

It’s a time of anxiety for players because this is their livelihood and they want to know where they may be going. I’m always talking to my players, especially around this time of year. I’m telling them what I’m hearing, reassuring them about rumors, going over whether a trade rumor they heard even works salary cap wise and things like that. Really, I’m just trying to help them maintain their composure and get through this period of time the best that I can.

I represented Desmond Mason and Mo Evans when they were moved before the trade deadline. Both moves were surprising, they were trades that you didn’t hear about leading up to them. When they happened, it was kind of difficult. For example, when Desmond got traded he was playing in Seattle, and he liked Seattle. He got traded with Gary Payton to Milwaukee for Ray Allen, it was a major trade. When it happened, he was really disappointed and unsure of what was next. That’s when I start digging to find out what’s next for my guy and what the future looks like.

After a trade, you try to reassure your guy and tell him that if you got traded it means someone wants you. I know people don’t think that NBA players have to deal with rejection like normal people do, but they have to deal with it too. First and foremost, I’m reassuring my client. Then, I try to find out what the new situation is going to be like for my client, from a playing standpoint and from a living standpoint. From a playing standpoint, I’m trying to help them get integrated into the new system, finding out what their role is going to be and talking to the new team. From a living standpoint, it’s a little bit tougher if your player has kids and a family. That’s a little bit more added stress because you’re trying to figure out what to do with your family in terms of moving them and all of that. If it’s just a player who doesn’t have a family, it isn’t as a difficult. But they still have to get accustomed to the new situation, just like any of us would if we got moved to a new job in a new city. If that happened to anyone, they’d immediately wonder who they’re going to be working with, what their role is going to be, whether their workload is going to increase or decrease, if they’re going to like the city and if they know anyone there. Those are the first things that anyone would think about. I’m trying to help them through all of that.”

 

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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