Follow the NBA long enough and one learns to expect the unexpected. Participating inside the lines removes the shock value almost entirely.
The three-team trade between the Wizards, Suns, and Grizzlies, an otherwise ordinary deal involving good but not All-Star-level players became social media’s favorite child for a stretch Friday night. The deal died on the vine because of miscommunication over which player with the same sir name was included in the deal.
Unusual, certainly. Awkward because the report broke publicly mere moments after the Wizards’ latest road loss, unfortunately.
“The first time I've ever seen a trade go dead and guys are on a bus talking about it,” Wizards guard John Wall said Saturday. “Kind of devastating for those guys.”
That doesn’t mean the situation moved the needle on Wall’s personal Richter scale of shock.
“Nothing surprises me now, nine years in,” Wall said. “I’ve seen a guy get traded at halftime. Nothing can surprise me now.”
That guy wasn’t Wall’s current head coach, Scott Brooks, but former Wizard guard Kirk Hinrich. Turns out Brooks has his own personal traded-at-halftime tale from his playing days. He’s also been on teams that entered a season with high expectations only to struggle with reaching those forecasted heights. That’s happening now for the 11-18 Wizards.
Friday’s failed trade resurrected Saturday morning as Washington traded Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to Phoenix for ex-Wizard Trevor Ariza.
Some crazed situation that left Brooks speechless? Actually at the moment, yes, but only because the coach was not at liberty to discuss the transaction. The trade remains unofficial until the league office reopens Monday.
It’s unclear what level bombshell must occur to astonish Brooks. Even the current frustrations, while disappointing, aren’t revelatory for a man now in his 25th NBA season as a player and coach.
“I've been in the league long enough. Nothing surprises me,” Brooks said moments before his point guard uttered almost the exact same phrase. “That's part of being in this league. You have to expect things not to always go your way. I know one thing. The only way to get out of it is doing it together, figuring it out together. Nothing surprises me. It's just part of the business.”
The Houston Rockets conducted some business on Feb. 23, 1995 by trading Brooks to the Dallas Mavericks for guard Morlon Wiley and a second-round draft pick. Deals happen. This one stood out for the timing.
“That was one of the bad days of my life in the NBA,” Brooks revealed on a radio show last year. “At halftime of the game, we go back, Coach [Rudy] Tomjanovich makes some halftime adjustments. … We come onto the court and we’re in the layup line, and all of a sudden the general manager grabs me out of the layup line and says, ‘Hey, Scott, I gotta talk to you.’ So he pulls me out of the line, brings me back to the locker room and he says, ‘Hey, you’ve been traded.’ I was like, ‘What?’ ”
That personal experience altered Brooks’ surprise quotient going forward.
“I look at things different,” he said Saturday. “There a lot of tough things in the world right now. I was traded at halftime. That was tough on me, but that’s really not tough on me. I was still making a lot of money and the next team, Dallas, still paid me in cash.”
Brooks keenly remembers his halftime trade. Wall didn’t have the exact details correct on Hinrich’s departure; he recalled his backcourt partner playing in the first half of the Feb. 23 contest against the Philadelphia 76ers but the box score says otherwise. Hinrich did learn about the trade to the Hawks between the second and third quarter. That’s wild enough.
“I’ve seen everything you basically can see,” Wall said.
That now includes a trade falling through in such a public and awkward way. Once Ariza joins the squad, all that matters is whether his old/new team turns around this clumsy season that began with high hopes. It won’t surprise anyone if Ariza’s veteran presence sparks a rally. After watching the opening 29 games, who can say for sure.
“We're not playing nowhere near what we're capable of,” Wall said. “Maybe that's the move we should have made to make it happen, I don't know. We don't know until we get out there.”
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