NBA trade deadline: Amid rumors, a basketball game takes center stage in Brooklyn

USA TODAY Sports

While some were busy wrapped up in trade rumors and speculation, basketball happened last night in Brooklyn. Thanks to Joe Johnson's buzzer beater, fans of two teams heavily involved in rumors were reminded of the thrill of the actual game.

BROOKLYN - By Tuesday afternoon, the Internet had found a way to trade Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets in a package that did not include either Brook Lopez or Deron Williams, and the Milwaukee Bucks had traded everyone on their roster not named Larry Sanders or Brandon Jennings for Josh Smith and J.J. Redick.

Meanwhile, in East Rutherford, N.J., Nets general manager Billy King stood at the team's shootaround, surrounded by members of the media and simply stated, "I would put the likelihood of us doing a deal at 10 percent."

While back in Brooklyn, in the Bucks locker room, it was business as usual. The players were focused on beating the Nets, not whether or not a trade was or wasn't going to happen, and the standard line, as you can imagine, was along the lines of, "It's a business" and "Whatever happens, happens." Almost to a man.

Bucks head coach Jim Boylan was not at all focused on the speculation. He was more interested in talking about his team focusing on "the mental part of the game, their overall effort," not off the basketball court, but on it.

"That's an area I'd like to focus on," Boylan said. "Coming every single night with a big strong effort."

All talk, from both locker rooms, was focused on the court, not off it. The rumors, the business of basketball and the looming trade deadline were non-issues, and for good reason. Why should they waste time on the unknown when there were plenty of tangible, basketball discussions to be had?

The Nets entered Tuesday's game having lost 13-straight games to the Bucks, another storyline Boylan did not want to talk about, but for different, shall we say, superstitious reasons. They had one player in Lopez who was coming off his first All-Star experience, and the wonder was whether or not the rest, as opposed to the long weekend spent in Houston, might have done him some good. Meanwhile, Deron Williams was straight off plasma therapy on both his ankles, which caused him to miss the last two games.


For the Bucks, they had the long anticipated return of Larry Sanders, the league's best shot blocker, who has been out of action for almost two weeks due to a lower back injury. They're a team hovering at .500, sitting in the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

The more productive and thoughtful conversations should have centered around how the Nets can snap their 13-game losing streak to the Bucks and how Milwaukee can gain traction in the East, getting them out of a first-round playoff series with the Miami Heat.

If there is one way, however, to get the conversation shifted back on to the basketball court, I suppose playing an overtime game that features not one, but two buzzer beaters might do the trick. Having, again, not one but two moments that deafen the crowd both on hand and at home certainly goes a long way towards drowning out the trade rumors and speculations.


The hero of the Nets' 113-111 overtime win was Joe Johnson, a player who was dealt last summer from the Atlanta Hawks and who was once deemed "untradable" thanks to his lofty contract. Johnson, who scored a team-high 24 points, made a three-pointer at the buzzer to put the game into overtime and a elbow jumper in overtime in the final seconds to win it.

"It's almost like you feel it's going to go in," Williams said. "He's been so successful for us in the last seconds of games, closing out games and hitting big shots for us."

It came as no surprise to the Bucks either, who knew both plays were going to be drawn up for Johnson.

"Joe Johnson makes big shots," Boylan said after the game. "It wasn't a shock that Brooklyn went to him. We knew that's where they'd be looking, and Luc [Richard Mbah a Moute] got caught under one screen on the first shot. The second time, Luc played him tough and Joe just made a great shot."

Mbah a Moute simply tipped his cap, saying, "Joe Johnson is a phenomenal player. This is not the first time he's made shots like that."


And he's right. As NBA.com's John Schumann noted, Johnson is 9-of-10 this season with the game on the line and less than a minute to play.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," Johnson said of his game winner. "Regardless of the situation, whether it's regular season or playoffs, it's always a great feeling, and just to see everyone kind of explode with excitement is probably the best feeling."

It's a pure, adrenaline-filled basketball feeling, one that can't be replicated by trade rumors and speculation. What Johnson's shot did, in the most basketball way possible, was make the basketball community at Barclay's Center forget about the "50/50 Dwight Howard rumor" or the seemingly never-ending Smith saga. It reminded them that the game is simply more exciting when played on the basketball court than it is when it's played off it.

The best part? The Nets and Bucks play again Wednesday.

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