As NBA players, guys might not be the most savvy when it comes
to the salary cap and CBA, but one date that everyone has
circled on their calendars is Dec. 15.
That’s the day when trade season officially begins.
Depending on your specific situation, you’re either looking
forward to the day or nervous about it. The established superstars
know that some of their teammates could be shipped out, while
non-superstar players know they could be packing their bags.
Either way, you have that date circled.
Trades are a part of life in the NBA. As we hear all the time,
it’s a business. As players, we always understood that there was a
bit of a double-standard when it came down to it, though. Teams can
trade you whenever they want, but as a player, if you make a trade
request, people want to say that you’re spoiled or entitled or that
you’re a quitter, things like that.
Sometimes, though, there are valid reasons to request a trade; I
know I had my reasons when I asked the Indiana Pacers to trade me
back in 2011. They didn’t, and I believe it indirectly ended my
After my time in Boston came to an end, I signed with New
Orleans. They were an up-and-coming team led by Chris Paul and
David West — two players I had existing relationships with. I
thought I could help get them to the next level, much in the way I
helped in Miami and Boston.
At that time, CP was playing at an MVP level, but the Western
Conference was no joke. We got eliminated in the first round of the
playoffs my first season there, and didn’t even make the playoffs
my second season. CP missed 37 games the second year, though, which
Winning those 37 games should’ve probably been considered an
accomplishment, to be honest with you, and there’s no way we
would’ve done it without Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton. They
both established themselves as good young players in the league,
but that meant other teams wanted them. Next thing I knew, I was
being traded to Indiana with Darren. I was kinda caught in the
middle, and that’s the part of trades that most fans and outsiders
can’t really understand.
A big part of the reason I signed with New Orleans was because
of my pre-existing relationships with CP and West. I wouldn’t
really say that the organization recruited me, so to speak, but I
also signed there because of the role that I knew I would have. To
players, it’s not always only about the contract; oftentimes, it’s
also about the role and the fit.
But in a really short period of time, New Orleans decided they
wanted to try something different, and the deal that came together
was one that got them Trevor Ariza. They ended up doing a four-team
trade with the Rockets, Pacers and Nets. Indiana sent Troy Murphy
out in the deal, and got Darren and me back.
I wouldn’t say that Indy didn’t want me or value me, but they
really made the deal because of Darren. So, I packed my bags
I wasn’t happy leaving New Orleans, obviously, but I was able to
embrace going to Indy for many of the same reasons I did New
Orleans. They were a young team trying to find their way and they
had some young players I enjoyed being around. T.J. Ford and I are
good friends to this day, and I had an opportunity to see a young
Paul George develop some of the habits that turned him into a
But man, things changed for me, and fast.
Our coach, Jim O’Brien, was fired after 44 games and one of his
young assistants — a guy named Frank Vogel — took over.
The organization’s leadership decided they wanted to focus on
developing the team’s younger players and I, at 34 years old,
didn’t really fit in with their long-term plans. I went from
playing 20 minutes a game to not dressing, and I was perfectly
healthy and still felt like I could make a difference. It hurt.
I’ll never forget the conversation I had with Coach Vogel when
he told me that I wasn’t going to be playing. We were in New Jersey
getting ready to play the Nets, and Coach straight up told me that
I wasn’t going to be playing at all.
“Like, you mean NOOOOO minutes?” I remember asking him.
“Like, none at all?”
Sadly, the answer was no!
He offered me the opportunity to sit in on the coach’s meetings
to try to absorb some of his staff’s knowledge, but the truth of
the matter is that I still wanted to play. I knew I could still
make a difference.
So I asked for a trade.
I was a 34-year-old champion who still had a lot left to offer,
but I was on a team that was just at a different place in its
developmental cycle. It wasn’t a fit, and that happens to a lot of
veteran players in the NBA.
Coach Vogel and I had that conversation on Feb. 6, 2011, and it
turns out that the trade deadline was on Feb. 24. They didn’t have
the time to find a trade, I guess, so I sat on the bench, mostly in
street clothes. I watched as our team got eliminated in the first
round of the playoffs, and next thing we all knew, the 2011 lockout
Once the lockout ended, Indy waived me using the one-time
“amnesty” right they got under the new collective bargaining
agreement. I wasn’t too enthused about signing with a new team and
having to move during a lockout-shortened season. Remember, the
2011-12 season was only 66 games, and they were crammed into a
shortened period of time.
To be honest, though, by the time the 2012-13 season was
beginning, I hadn’t gotten the kind of offer I was looking for.
Some teams offered me a 10-day contract, which wasn’t something I
was willing to accept.
And just like that, my playing career was over.
It felt like one minute I was being courted by New Orleans and
having an opportunity to join a young MVP-caliber player, and the
next minute, I’m being told by Frank Vogel that I’m not going to
It happens fast, and it happens to the best of us, and that’s
why players have to take their careers into their own hands when
they have the opportunity to.
If KG, LeBron and KD never left the Timberwolves, Cavaliers or
Thunder, there’s no guarantee they would’ve ever been able to win a
championship. Right now, Damian Lillard is facing a similar
situation. Ben Simmons decided that it’s time for him to leave
Philly not too long ago.
When I began thinking about it recently and looking back at my
situation in Indy, I only wonder what could’ve been if I’d
requested a trade sooner. Who knows? If I would’ve asked earlier,
maybe I would’ve landed in a better situation. Maybe my playing
career wouldn’t have ended the way it did.
I never told that story before, but today, on Dec. 15 — when NBA
trade season officially begins — it seemed appropriate.