NBA PM: The Truth Behind Trade Rumors
Between now and February 21, there will be hundreds of trade rumors and maybe a couple of deals. Every year, only a handful of trades are actually completed, but there’s never a shortage of rumors. That’s in large part due to the nature of trade discussions.
In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, virtually every team in the league will have a conversation. These talks are either to gauge interest in their own players or to see which players the other team is willing to move. With so many conversations taking place, it’s no surprise that some of these discussions leak to the media, sometimes when an executive wants to scoff at a terrible proposal and sometimes when they want to generate more interest in a certain player.
Around this time of year, teams are always open to having a conversation. It doesn’t mean they’re shopping their players or looking to make drastic changes, it simply means a team is doing its due diligence and seeing what’s out there. This is the time of year when it becomes clear which players are untouchable and which players could be had. If a team is willing to discuss a trade for their star player, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re shopping that player, but it does suggest that they’re open to moving him for the right price. There are some players that are untouchable (Kevin Durant) and making an offer will draw a laugh. There are others who are hard to obtain, but possible to acquire nonetheless.
However, there’s a common misconception about trade talks. Most people think that two general managers get on the phone and work out a trade. In reality, that’s not how the process works. Most trades start with a conversation between lesser executives. These executives talk with as many other executives as possible and see what potential trades are on the table. Only then are the possible deals brought to the general manager, who then decides which trade to make.
It’s also not uncommon for teams to make calls and gauge interest in a player who isn’t on their roster. This is done when teams are looking to acquire a player and flip them to another team, or when they’re trying to get a third team involved in the talks.
There’s a funny story that executives like to tell. Back when Amar’e Stoudemire was with the Phoenix Suns and the team was gauging interest in him, one executive realized that Stoudemire was obtainable and wanted to see what he could acquire if he flipped Stoudemire to another team. He called a number of teams and told them that he had Stoudemire if he wanted him, and he wanted to know what they’d be willing to offer. There was only one problem: One of the teams that this executive called up was the Suns, who were amused that they were being offered their own player.
Around the trade deadline and the draft, teams will have a war room that features a whiteboard with potential trade scenarios and contract information for players. This is where the front office will meet to discuss their options and survey the league.
Many times, the rumors that you read about are trade talks that went nowhere. Sometimes, a trade rumor will surface a month after the talks died. That’s why when most trades are completed, there aren’t any rumors in advance of the deal. Executives try to keep active talks from reaching the rumor mill because it can hurt negotiations and upset everyone involved – the player, the agent and the other executive who now has to do damage control as well.
While we often hear about “offers” that have been made, that’s not how teams classify talks. An offer is made when the negotiations are complete and the two sides are ready to finalize the deal with a trade call to the league. Everything before that is just negotiating and discussing the potential framework of a deal.
Trade talks aren’t as simple as they seem. There are a lot of people and steps involved before a trade is announced and your favorite team is introducing their new players. Keep that in mind over the next month as the trade deadline approaches and rumors surface left and right.
Clark Making an Impact in Los Angeles
When the Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets completed the four-team blockbuster trade in August, Earl Clark was viewed as a throw-in to make the salaries work. Nobody expected the 25-year-old to emerge as a significant contributor for the star-studded Lakers.
However, just five months after landing in Los Angeles, Clark has earned the starting power forward job. In January, Clark is averaging 10.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 blocks in 27.7 minutes per contest. He has scored in double figures in six of the last eight games. More importantly, he’s providing plenty of energy to the veteran-laden Lakers, particularly on the defensive end. Clark is proving his worth and the most of the opportunity that D’Antoni has given him.
“It’s been a long process, but I was just staying positive,” Clark said. “Unfortunately, a few guys got hurt, but I got the opportunity to play and I’m trying to make the best of it.”
When Pau Gasol was sidelined with a concussion, Clark stepped in and played some of the best basketball of his career. He was outstanding and a much better fit in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. When Gasol returned from injury, D’Antoni made it clear that Gasol would remain on the Lakers’ bench because the team had played better with a small lineup that featured Clark as a starter.
“It’s been pretty cool, pretty easy,” Clark said of D’Antoni’s offense. “I’m just running the floor, spreading the floor, making easy plays, shooting open shots, doing pick-and-rolls. It’s been a smooth transition. That’s all I was asking for and all I was looking for, a chance to go out there and show people what I can do and show the coach that I can help the team win.”
The one thing that everyone in and around the Lakers can agree on is that the team’s biggest problem is their defense. The Lakers are currently tied for 19th in defensive efficiency and are allowing 101.5 points per game, which is the fourth-worst average in the Western Conference.
“We have to stay ready on the defensive end – stay engaged and just play defense,” Clark said. “We have so many offensive weapons and it’s easy for us to score 100 to 110 points per game. But it takes dedication and constant will to stop the opponent because there are so many great players in the NBA.”
Even though Clark has been playing well, the Lakers have continued to struggle. They started the month with a six-game losing streak and are currently on a four-game losing streak. They have gone 2-10 in January and, at this point, the playoffs seem like a long shot. However, Clark and his teammates haven’t given up. The team remains optimistic that they can achieve their goals.
“We just have to be positive and upbeat,” Clark said. “We’ve got nowhere to look but up and we have a big challenge coming in the games that we’re going to play. It’s not going to get easier. We just have to pick each other up, stay positive and play Lakers basketball.
“There are no excuses now,” Clark added. “We’re almost at the All-Star break. It’s time for us to just dig down and figure out what we want to do. Do we want to be a great team or just a mediocre team?”
All-Star Reserves Announced Tonight
Be sure to check HOOPSWORLD tonight to find out the 2013 NBA All-Star reserves. The reserves will be announced at 7 p.m. on TNT’s Inside the NBA, unless they surface on Twitter before then (as they have in the past). We recently assembled our writers to get their predictions. Check out the Eastern Conference predictions here. Check out the Western Conference predictions here.