I love NBA trades as much as anybody. There’s just something fascinating about the process of multiple teams coming together to say, “I’ve got something that doesn’t totally work how I want it to, and so do you, but if we were to swap my imperfect thing for your imperfect thing, I think everything would be a little more perfect.”
Described that way, it seems absurd. And yet, we’re all addicted to the NBA rumor mill aren’t we — seeing which imperfect thing might be replaced by another.
Of course, describing trades that way also makes “things” out of players, actual human beings. These trades can, in fact, be imperfect for them. You get used to a certain city (that maybe you didn’t have a choice about in the first place), get used to a certain set of teammates, perhaps get your family settled in an area they like, your kids going to a school they like, and then, one day, your GM is on the phone telling you sorry, but you’re headed to Cleveland.
You wouldn’t like your job and your life being uprooted like that. Neither would I.
Of course, lest you think I’m getting all maudlin and soft, I’ll clarify that getting paid somewhere between hundreds of thousands to hundreds of millions of dollars to play basketball for a living means that accepting such upheaval is part of the gig.
Which didn’t make any of what happened — or didn’t happen — Friday night any easier for MarShon Brooks.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that there was a three-team trade set to go down between the Phoenix Suns, the Washington Wizards, and the Memphis Grizzlies. The Suns would send veteran 3-and-D wing Trevor Ariza (whom they inexplicably signed this summer to a one-year, $15 million deal under the misguided belief he could make them a playoff team) to Washington. The Wizards would send burgeoning reserve shooting guard Kelly Oubre (averaging a career-high 13 ppg) to Memphis, and reserve point guard Austin Rivers to PG-needy Phoenix. And then the Grizzlies would send reserve players Dillon Brooks and Wayne Selden to Phoenix, and two second-round picks to Washington.
Washington had called up both teams to facilitate the deal — “This is what everyone’s giving up and what you’re getting. Sound good?” — before all three teams got on a conference call to finalize it. Except that when they did, there was a snag:
Phoenix thought it was getting Dillon Brooks from Memphis. The Grizzlies were adamant they were offering MarShon Brooks, but not Dillion. And then the whole deal, which had been reported by pretty much everyone by that point, collapsed and fell apart.
The upside to a trade from a player’s perspective is that while your current team may have decided you were expendable, a conduit to a path for improvement, then at least it also meant that someone else saw enough in you to want you there.
MarShon Brooks doesn’t even get that. The Grizzlies were willing to sacrifice him in order to get Oubre. And the Suns so very clearly did not want him that the trade fund up not occurring. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary or not, that’s gotta sting a bit.
The Suns and Wizards completed a re-worked version of the trade Saturday. No Grizzlies this time. No Wayne Selden, no Dillon Brooks, and certainly no MarShon Brooks. If you’re him‚ how do you show up for the Grizzlies’ next practice or shootaround or game and not have the feeling that you’re cannon fodder? And what can Memphis management possibly say to him that could appease him? The hard-hearted fan will intone the reminder, “He’s making a ton of money to play basketball, and that’s part of the deal. So deal with it, be professional, and go do your job.” And here’s guessing he will.
Then again, how many of those same fans would be able to be quite so stoic and even-keeled if they were in the same situation? “Oh, this department swap means I’m getting Eric? No, no, no — I wanted Aaron. So, let’s just never mind about the whole thing.”
It’s all pretty imperfect in the end.
THREE MORE THOUGHTS
• Dirk Nowitzki made some history Thursday night. By making his season debut with the Mavericks, he broke a tie with Kobe Bryant for the most seasons played with a single franchise. This is Nowitzki’s 21st campaign with Dallas. Bryant played each of his 20 seasons with the Lakers. Nowitzki had surgery last April to remove bone spurs, intending to be ready for the start of this season, but tendon soreness set him back. He came off the bench, played six minutes, and scored two points.
• Joakim Noah had an interesting explanation for why his stint with the Knicks didn’t work out. The veteran big man, who just signed a one-year deal with Memphis, told “The Chris Vernon Show” that being back home among all the temptations of New York made him “too lit” to play well. “I remember after the first game I had 60 people in my house. I’m too lit to play in New York City. Memphis is perfect for me.” He signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the Knicks, but appeared in just 53 games with them, averaging 4.6 ppg and 7.9 rpg. Because, you know, partying.
• There’s been a lot of news lately about Rudy Gobert’s frustration with the referees. He’s far from unique in that respect. The Lakers found themselves so flustered by the officials buying every single James Harden flop in their game Thursday night, that several players — including LeBron James and Lonzo Ball — pointedly clasped their hands behind their backs on a series of defensive possessions to send a message. “You can’t touch them” without getting a foul call, Ball noted. Harden, who came into the game averaging 9.4 free-throw attempts per game, went 18 for 19 at the line vs. L.A. en route to a 50-point triple-double.