Trade talk has long ranked among the NBA fan's favorite pastimes due to the opportunity it affords us to cast ourselves as decision-makers capable of making all the right moves to lift our favorite teams from woebegone also-ran to world-beating armada. The seemingly ever-increasing popularity of fantasy basketball, video games with franchise modes and proposal-promoting tools like ESPN.com's Trade Machine has only heightened our love affair with theoretical swapping, turning fans of all stripes — from those who back bottom-feeders to those who support once-piece-away potential contenders, and all in between — into hypothetical wholesalers willing to overhaul their squad's rosters for even an incremental increase of hoisting the O'Brien come season's end.
All those things have helped make it exceedingly easy for us to think about packing a dude's bags and sending him out for a conditional 2019 second-rounder, but there's another factor, too: that we rarely see what the aftermath of a trade looks like for the players involved in it or for their teammates. I'm not saying fans should consider a player's feelings before trying to package him with an expiring contract in exchange for a backup shooting guard to see how many wins a HollingerBot thinks it may or may not add to his team's bottom line. (Although the Trade Machine would hit new levels if post-trade projections included stuff like, "Your star small forward will become 9 percent more depressed without his regular Caesar salad sessions with your just-traded reserve center, costing you 1.4 wins.") Still, though, I wonder if we'd be quite as desirous that our real teams undergoing the sort of roster churn that our fake teams do if we had more of a window into what it's like to be traded, or to see your friend get traded.
With that in mind, I really enjoyed this segment from an episode of "Open Gym" — a program produced by NBA TV Canada that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the ins-and-outs of life with the Toronto Raptors, similar to the U.S. network counterpart's "The Association" — that detailed the Raptors' players and coaches all learning about the early December trade that moved forward Rudy Gay and reserve big men Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray from Toronto to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for John Salmons, Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes and Greivis Vasquez (starts at the 9:50 mark, ends at the 19:22 mark):
The confusion that reigns when reserve shooter Steve Novak brings word into the locker room ... the evident dismay on the face of power forward Amir Johnson ... the wistful professionalism of Gray, a seven-year veteran now on his fourth NBA team, and the obvious shock of sophomore Acy, who'd spent his entire brief professional career north of the border ... they all feel instructive and, to some extent, revelatory. (It also almost feels too narratively perfect that Gay, whose isolation-heavy, high-volume/poor-shooting approach was submarining the Raptors offense, wasn't there because he was going to be on the second bus to the arena.)
Everyone trumpets the same "business of the NBA" line, but it's clear that the players involved only really buy it to a certain degree; this still disrupts things, and it hurts, and it makes the process of going back to the "business of the NBA" just a little bit harder; recall, if you will, Jeremy Lin's bummed-out reaction to the Houston Rockets' just-before-tipoff trade for Thomas Robinson before the 2012-13 trade deadline. The trade may well have made the Raptors better on the court by unlocking the stagnation in their offense and adding needed depth to their bench, but it's always worth remembering, in a game played by people, that such moves also have an impact off the court, both for those traded and for those left behind.
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