There’s a few dates you’ll never forget.
For me, one of them is Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2002.
I was in my fourth season with the Denver Nuggets, and things
hadn’t really gotten off to the best start, to say the
We were 6-18 and knew we were gonna have our hands full that
night. Our opponent? The Dallas Mavericks.
With Mike Finley, Steve Nash, Raef LaFrentz and Dirk Nowitzki,
Dallas was no joke. They began the season 21-3, so
in our morning shootaround, we were definitely engaged.
Afterward, I showered and changed, went back home, took my
pregame nap and was on my way back to the arena.
I’m driving and going over the game plan in my head when I get a
call from my agent. He said he was calling to “check on me,” asked
me how I was doing and where I was. I thought the questions were a
little strange, but didn’t really think much of it.
“I’m going to the arena, we got a game,” I said.
“You’re going where?!”
And that’s how I found out I’d been traded.
We were both shocked, and for the same reason. Nobody
communicated with me. I was literally a couple miles from the
For sure, getting traded is a part of life as a professional
athlete. And fortunately for me, I was young and, outside of the
team, hadn’t really had any family roots or ties to Denver. But
that didn’t completely remove the sting. I just considered myself
lucky to not be in a situation where I also had to move a wife and
three kids in the middle of the school year. Not every player is
One minute, you’re driving on the highway. The next minute, at a
moment’s notice, you have to start packing and prepare to make a
new life in a new city. It’s the hardest part of the job, and it’s
one that we all accept. But damn.
When I got the news — again, I was literally five minutes from
the arena and had done shootaround that morning with my teammates
and coaches — I had mixed emotions. My initial reaction was just
genuine shock, and even though resentment might be too strong of a
word, I definitely felt some kind of way.
“They couldn’t even tell me?”
I can’t speak for everybody, but I can definitely understand how
being traded and not being told could make a player feel really
disposable. Sometimes, people forget that players are people
I can’t help but to think about that as the NBA trade deadline
As far as I know, there’s no specific rule about when you are no
longer able to communicate with the coaching staff or the front
office of a team that trades you, but in most instances, there
would at least be a phone call or a text message from your old
coach or GM or whoever. Just a, “Thank you for your service, we
wish you the best of luck,” something like that.
From Denver, I got nothing.
All those thoughts and feelings raced through my mind in the 30
seconds it took me to process everything and turn my car around. So
naturally, I asked my agent the question everyone in my situation
“Where did I get traded to?”
When he told me Houston, I perked up and immediately pressed the
gas. I was trying to land in Houston that
I’ve talked about it pretty extensively, but I had a lot of ties
to the city and both the Rockets and the city's WNBA organization,
Antonio McDyess, Nick Van Exel, John Lucas and a few of my other
teammates in Denver actually lived in Houston during the offseason,
so it became my second home, as well. We had great relationships
with Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and guys who actually played for
the Rockets, so we spent a lot of time working out together and
hanging out. So aside from Cleveland, there was probably no other
place I would have preferred to be.
By the time I got traded, Antonio was in New York and Nick was
in Dallas, but truth be told, they helped make me feel better about
the being traded from Denver because they viewed it as me going
home and thought I would be better off. They were excited for me,
so I couldn’t help but to be excited myself.
So for sure, being traded to Houston made it much
But I’d be lying if I said I wasn't a little upset by not
getting closure from Denver. I never spoke to anybody in Denver
about the trade. I can’t say for sure why they traded me, but I was
in the final year of my rookie contract and I can only assume that
the front office wanted to push the reset button. We weren’t
winning and the 2003 NBA Draft was coming up. Maybe they figured
that were going to get a top player and didn’t want to invest in
re-signing me. Considering they did end up drafting Carmelo
Anthony, it’s hard to argue with the results.
I guess I was just collateral damage.
So yeah, I got to the crib, packed my bags and headed to Houston
the next day.
My time there was truly a blessing.
I made some lasting relationships (including the one I formed with WNBA legend Tina
Thompson), got an opportunity to play for a great organization
and I got to team up with the great Yao Ming, a basketball
We had a decent core there in Houston, and I think both the
front office and I wanted to me to stay there long-term, but once I
became a restricted free agent in the offseason, the Memphis
Grizzlies immediately stepped up and presented my agent with a
great offer. I was told that Houston wanted to match it, but
ultimately didn’t because they had luxury-tax concerns. So I packed
my bags again.
At least this time, I knew what the situation was.
At the end of the day, I have no regrets about my career, no
hard feelings toward Denver or about how things worked out. Within
an eight-month span, I went from feeling discarded to being truly
valued and appreciated by both Houston and Memphis, and I’m so
thankful for that. A lot of players never get that feeling of
happiness or belonging.
I’m one of the lucky ones.
With the trade deadline coming up, when you’re on the outside,
it’s fun to imagine what this player or that player would look like
on this team or that team, but I do just hope that we don’t lose
sight of the fact that, at the end of the day, we’re all human.
Getting traded is hard... Not being told you've been traded? That's
This season, I damn sure hope that when a young player on his
rookie contract gets dealt, the team that trades him at least tells
I’ve been on the other side of that, and trust me when I tell
you — it sure wasn’t fun.
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