The NBA trade deadline is an exciting time for fans. During the days leading up to it they gather around their computers, tablets, phones and televisions to see the latest and greatest rumors. While the buzz and intrigue about the game is great for the teams, media outlets and those with a rooting interest, there is another side to it all. A more personal side.
While everyone loves watching athletes perform at the highest level on the court, it can cloud our perception. We lose sight of the fact that, in the end, these warriors we metaphorically and emotionally live and die with are simply just regular men with regular feelings who just happen to be extraordinary physical specimens.
That becomes abundantly clear during the trade process to those on the inside.
“It’s the worst part of the job,” Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said. “I’ve been on both sides of it now. When I was on the agent side you’re just commiserating with your clients around the trade deadline who may be moved. I used to say to people in my law firm ‘imagine if you got up in the morning and somebody said you’ve been traded to a law firm in San Francisco and you have 48 hours to get there.’ It doesn’t happen in any other business. It happens in our business and it’s a part of it and everybody understands it going in. That doesn’t mean it’s easier for your wife, family kids or yourself.”
Jared Dudley, who came to the Suns via trade in 2008, knows all too well the difficulties of the process.
“At that time I didn’t have any kids so it was easier to move,” the swingman said. “I got the call and you have to be there within 48 hours. You pack two or three suitcases and you’re living out of a hotel.”
It’s not just the moving that is difficult, it’s leaving personal relationships behind and trying to form new ones while also trying to do your job at the highest level in a new city.
“You form a relationship with these guy that are here,” Babby said. “We see them every day. We travel with them. You develop those relationships. Whether it’s waiving somebody or trading somebody you can’t not consider the personal aspects of it. At the end of the day though, we have a job that requires us to do what we can and fulfil our obligations to our franchise to do our best to get better.”
Someone who is in the midst of the process, Marcus Morris who just arrived in Phoenix, knows those emotions first hand.
“Being around certain people for a long time and having a good connection with them and having to move is kind of weird,” Morris said sorting through the whirlwind 48 hours he’s just been through. “But moving to be with Keef is like going where family is. Anyone that is close to him will be the same with me because we’re identical personalities.”
It’s not just the player arriving in a new city that has to make an adjustment. His new teammates have to adjust to someone else joining their tight knit group.
“It’s kind of like a brotherhood,” Dudley said of the NBA. “Even though you’re not on the same team, it’s a respect for one another. It’s always difficult at first but then a new guy comes in and you have a new buddy, a new friend and new personalities.”
The key to a smooth transition though is how the organization welcomes a new player and helps make them feel at home as soon as possible. It is something Babby and his staff take a great pride in doing well.
“Everything we do here is about making sure we have an environment that is player friendly and accommodating to our players to give them the best chance to succeed,” he said. “We do everything we can to welcome them and their families. With Marcus it’s easy because he has a built in advantage and been an honorary member of the family all along.”
Basketball is a business and player movement is inevitable. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a very real and personal effect both for those leaving an organization and those coming in that comes along with fans excitement. There’s not just a personnel side but personal side to each trade.