Behind the NBA trade deadline (Part 2)

This is the second in a five-part behind-the-scenes look at how trades in the NBA come to pass.

The weeks before the NBA trade deadline are so chaotic that nobody could possibly know everything that’s being discussed — not players, not agents, not even general managers, and especially not reporters — even though they’re all constantly mining each other for information.

You will hear dozens of trade rumors between now and Feb. 8, the large majority of which will never come to fruition, and the few deals that do actually go down will probably surprise you. This week’s Blake Griffin trade was in the works for six days before leaking in its final stages.

So, I reached out to several NBA agents whose clients are currently on the trading block, asking if they could peel back the curtain on the craziness, and here’s what Parquet Post discovered.

Part 1: Isaiah Thomas and intelligence gathering


Credibility is everything for reporters, too, and yet every agent I spoke to said only about a quarter of reported trade rumors are based in reality.

And even that might be kind.

“It’s a lot less than 50-50. That’s for sure,” said one prominent agent. “Sometimes there’s some semblance of truth. Sometimes there’s just a nugget of truth to it. Sometimes there’s a lot to it. Every situation is different. We’re in an age right now where there’s such a level of competition to break news, break stories, create rumors, so it’s a very dangerous time when it comes to that perspective. Those are fires I have to put out every single day.”

Anthony Davis heard his name linked to the Celtics in trade rumors so often that he called a meeting with his agent and Pelicans general manager Dell Demps this summer, just to make sure there was nothing to it. There wasn’t.

“Demps would not have a job if he didn’t sign Anthony Davis,” said an agent with knowledge of New Orleans’ front-office dynamic. “He’s not trading him.”

Just the possibility of having to uproot your life to another city not necessarily of your choosing hangs over the trade deadline for players and their families, and that makes an agent’s job awfully difficult in February.

“That’s just a matter of educating your clients all the time, keeping them up to speed on everything,” an agent said. “Those conversations are happening daily, keeping them apprised of something that might be legit or ‘Don’t even worry about that, there’s no basis in it.’ I want them to focus on playing and taking care of what they can control and letting me worry about the things that they can’t control, so those are conversations that happen every day.”

So, where do these rumors come from?

“You have to consider the source,” another agent said, using the rumored George Hill to Cleveland trade (which is very much real) as an example. “How did it get out there? Cleveland is motivated. So, did they talk?  … I do believe that rumors start with one side wanting something or pretending they are just trying to fix something. There is motivation somewhere.”

Keep that in mind the next time you hear the Celtics are interested in trading for Anthony Davis. Because of course the Celtics are interested in trading for Anthony Davis. This doesn’t mean the Pelicans are willing to trade him. This just means the Celtics want it known that they are interested, and if that leads to some distrust between Davis and the Pelicans, all the better.

Only a handful of reporters are truly plugged in to the league, one of whom is ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Players, agents, GMs all trust him, and yet one agent even warned to read his reporting on rumors with some suspicion.

“There are a lot of leakers,” he said, pointing mostly to lower-level front-office types, “and the way it is set up now is crazy. Teams literally shop ideas to Woj to keep him in on things. Isn’t that crazy? And then he never writes a bad thing about them and then mentions this leaker for open jobs.”

Yup, this is a relationship business.

Part 3, “Marcus Smart and financial planning,” will be published on Sunday. If you liked Parts 1 and 2, tell your Celtics fan friends to subscribe, so they don’t miss out on this Parquet Post goodness.

Here’s me at Yahoo Sports NBA on the Celtics signing Greg Monroe, who, if you remember, was No. 2 on Parquet Post’s holiday shopping list. The C’s are also among the suitors for Tyreke Evans, the No. 3 player on that list.

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