The trade deadline has once again come and gone, and this year the rumor mill was churning fast as ever, especially with many teams still reeling from the effects of the 5-month long lockout on player conditioning and wanting a fresh start. We have access to extremely “rapid” forms of media (e.g. Twitter and Facebook), where updates, once posted, are accessible instantly to hundreds of millions of people worldwide. As a fan, I couldn’t tell you enough about how exciting it is to be able to follow the action, almost live, via these services. The advent of internet-enabled mobile phones only add to the accessibility of these forms of media. Contrast this to less than 20 years ago, when we got this kind of news once a day via newspaper, and maybe twice or three times by television news. The only way to receive more frequent updates short of being in the newsroom would have been to subscribe to a dedicated sports television network.
While it is great for the fans to be able to keep in touch with their favorite teams and players, do you ever wonder about how players feel about this kind of openness? While there are still a few examples of some transactions being conducted behind completely closed doors (e.g. the Blazers-Bobcats deal that brought Gerald Wallace to Portland, of which even Wallace himself had no idea about until it was finalized and publicized), more often than not, as soon as a word is uttered by an agent, manager, or player, it is immediately published to the world and picked apart in speculation. All of this happens usually before anything is ever made official.
We also must remember that the players that are subject to the trade rumors themselves have access to everything that us fans do. For some, the possibility of being dealt to another team and the loss of perceived stability that comes especially if he has enjoyed a long and successful tenure on his current team, is serious enough to affect his play on the court. One big name in this year’s rumor mill was Pau Gasol, who’s perhaps best known as Kobe Bryant’s number-two man on the Laker’s 2009 and 2010 NBA championship teams. His name has been tossed around since the beginning of the season, and it has lead to a noticeable decline in quality of play this season. In the end, those rumors amounted to nothing. We hope that a renewed sense of stability will help his game improve to his previous peak levels.
Another hot player on the trading block, Jamal Crawford of the Trail Blazers, stated in a radio interview that while he didn’t like hearing about the trade rumors, the ubiquity of media today makes ignoring them impossible:
It used to be a time… that that you could kind of shut out from reading the papers or reading the internet, but now it’s everywhere… So it’s kind of hard to be oblivious to the whole thing.
While it’s impractical to suggest a wholesale ban on social media for the agents and managers involved in trade rumors, we have to remember that NBA players (and athletes of other professional team sports as well) are people too, and are affected by emotions. Unfortunately, other than being more mindful of players’ requests for privacy, there is not much that we can do to quell their uneasiness, but Crawford has his way of dealing with it:
So you just try to do your best to stay professional and worry about the things you can control.