The NBA trade deadline always is an interesting time. The buildup is intense, especially for players in the locker room. They get asked uncomfortable questions about their future. They might have to leave their families and friends behind and live in a hotel in a distant city.
Pins and needles turn into a new reality for players around the league as reports hit social media and then are confirmed. It’s a wild, emotional time for almost everyone involved.
For Jabari Parker, whom the Sacramento Kings acquired along with center Alex Len in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks at the deadline last week, this isn’t the first time he has been traded at the deadline. In fact, it’s the second year in a row that he ha had to make an adjustment on the fly and join a new team for the final 30-plus games of the season.
It’s part of the business of the NBA and it usually gives players a unique perspective on what to expect, especially once they’ve been through the process once or twice.
“I knew what I signed up for when I chose this, it’s just a matter of building,” Parker said. “Life throws everything at you. Life is not real steady, everybody has challenges. And that kind of perspective kind of takes me far and gets me prepared for moments like this.”
Parker has struggled with injuries throughout his six seasons in the league. He’s currently dealing with a shoulder impingement that required a procedure in December, and he also tore the ACL in his left knee twice in his first three seasons in the league.
The 24-year-old forward has played in just one game since Christmas and he has missed the last 19 games, but he’s getting very close to a return. He would like to play on Monday against the Milwaukee Bucks, the team that drafted him No. 2 overall in 2014, although the Kings might have something to say about that.
“If it’s up to me, I’d play today,” Parker said on Saturday. “But it’s not up to me. I’m just trying to take the safest way.”
He’s stepping into an interesting situation. The Kings have struggled all season long, but they currently are on a hot streak and they are attempting to claw their way back into the postseason race.
“I feel good, I’m just trying to get as [much] practice as possible before I try to get in some games,” Parker said about his injured shoulder. “Preparation is key, especially where our team is right now. You see we’ve been winning and I don’t want to try to slow us up.”
While injuries have defined his early career, Parker can bring something different to the Kings’ roster. He is a combo forward that can really fill up the basket. He averaged 15 points and six rebounds per game for the Hawks, while shooting 50.4 percent from the floor.
He isn’t a great perimeter shooter, but there is plenty to like about his game and he’s still young enough to improve.
“Mindset-wise, I always try to count my blessings because right now, I’m healthy, I’ve got a clear space, I have good people around me -- those three things I can take and the sky's the limit,” Parker said. “Really, just having that kind of mindset, is key for me.”
The Kings have been after Parker for a while. They chased him during free agency in 2018 before he signed with the Chicago Bulls. He’s on the books for $6.5 million this season and has a player option for the same amount next year.
If he sticks around, the Kings have another young scoring option to work with. If he opts out, Sacramento will have found a way to completely get out from underneath Dewayne Dedmon’s contract, whom the Kings dealt to land Parker.