Behind the NBA trade deadline (Part 4)

This is the fourth 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
Part 2:
Anthony Davis and rumor mongering
Part 3: Marcus Smart and financial planning


Players can’t demand trades publicly anymore. Markieff Morris actually earned a $10,000 fine from the NBA when he made it clear on Twitter he was no longer interested in playing for the Suns in the summer of 2015.

“But this is where we come in,” said one agent.

Take Kyrie Irving, for example. He and his agent met with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to request a trade on July 9. With two more seasons on his contract, Irving represented incredible value at that point. Two weeks later, the news leaked, the whole world knew, and the Cavs’ bargaining power took a massive hit. This is why trade demands are done behind the scenes now.

“Demanding a trade is often accommodated but at their pace and for the players they want,” said one agent who has experience in this regard. “Teams just want to have some leverage.”

But why didn’t the Cavs just keep Irving? He was under contract. They didn’t have to send him to Boston. They could’ve called his bluffs when it came to not showing up for training camp or undergoing knee surgery and sitting out for a year. They could’ve entered the season with Irving in hopes of increasing their bargaining power again. Or maybe it would’ve gotten worse.

“Teams want a situation where everyone’s moving in the same direction, and players obviously have to build their careers,” said another agent. “They both have to be in situations where they can be successful and reach their fullest potential, so there are different agendas, because it’s a business from a player’s perspective and it’s a business from a team’s perspective.”

Part of that business is the relationship between GMs and agents. Keep Irving in limbo or screw him by sending him somewhere he doesn’t want to be, and risk pissing off an agent who you may have to do business with again down the road. Word travels quick when teams do players dirty.

“At the end of the day, everybody would like to try to help everyone be in a situation where they’re happy and they can be the best version of themselves and be successful,” the agent added. “We all try to work together. A team’s job is to do what’s best for that team, and my job is to do what’s best for my clients, and hopefully you find something that works best for everybody. That’s the goal.”

I’m not sure the Cavaliers achieved that goal, but that’s a different story.

So, who is the next Irving — the next shocking behind-the-scenes trade demand? Keep an eye on players who signed somewhere for the money and not necessarily the work-life balance, one agent said. “Agents and players are incentivized to go get theirs,” he elaborated. “Do they get theirs knowing full well they really don’t want to be there? That’s what Kyle Lowry did.”

Lowry “desperately wants to leave Toronto but may not get what he wants elsewhere,” the same agent told me prior to 2017 free agency. Indeed, the best offer the Raptors star got on the open market was $19 million, and he ended up getting an average annual value of $33.3 million to re-sign with the Raptors. “Did he just sign in and will demand a trade at the first headwind?”

We haven’t reached that point yet, considering Lowry is enjoying another All-Star season for a Raptors team that is hot on the Celtics’ heels for first place. But it certainly explains Lowry’s curious comments in October, when he said, “I would have loved” to sign with the Spurs this past summer.

So, what happens if Toronto fails to get out of the second round again? Might Lowry pull an Irving? Could another East power find itself in disarray?

Just for fun, here’s the list of guys who may have signed for finance over fit in 2017: Blake Griffin (already traded), George Hill (plotting his way out of Sacramento), Andrew Wiggins, Jrue Holiday, Tim Hardaway Jr., Otto Porter.

I’m not saying they’re all unhappy now. Just don’t be surprised if you start hearing reports of their unhappiness later.

Part 5, “Danny Ainge and keeping secrets,” will be published on Tuesday. If you liked Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4, 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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