How NBA players deal with the mundane reality of getting traded

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Getting traded mid-season is pretty annoying. NBA players describe the problems associated with finding a new home on the fly and living out of suitcases while trying to perform well down the stretch of a season.

Every February, NBA players go through the same routine of quietly waiting for the trade deadline to pass. Whether they want to be traded, haven't considered it or are hoping to remain where they are, news of trades breaking brings anxiety. Regardless of the situation, when told you're involved in a trade, the rush of emotion comes quickly.

Marcin Gortat was one of the guys expecting a trade to happen at some point during the season. When he got the call prior to the regular season beginning, it still knocked him back.

"Quite honestly, it's just, it's not a great feeling," said Gortat, who was dealt to the Washington Wizards for Emeka Okafor and a first-round pick in late October. "Your legs get softer when you hear that information of being traded. But everything is fast, everything is fast."

The deal to the Wizards was Gortat's second in-season trade in his seven-year career. In this case, he knew he wasn't in Phoenix's future plans, so he came prepared. He reported to Suns training camp ready to be moved.

"I didn't really bring too much stuff with me to Phoenix and I had an option with my apartment [lease] that I could terminate earlier," Gortat said. "I just knew that it was going to happen sooner or later."

Not everyone is that ready, and even if they are, the logistics of relocating aren't easy. When a player is traded during the season, the immediate 24-48 hours before reporting to a new team are a whirlwind. On the outside, trades are about contracts, cap space, roles and rosters. For the player who is being traded, though, those are the last things on his mind.

When Roger Mason Jr. was traded to the Toronto Raptors just three games into his second season with the Chicago Bulls, he relied on veteran players in his new city to help him along. He also explained that the NBA aids in the process by having team liaisons to help facilitate the packing and moving process.

Still, as a young player, it was a lot to take in at once.

"Little things, like cars, clothes [add up]," he said. "You have to have someone other than yourself come and pack your house up because you're gone. You've got games coming up. It's more than what meets the eye."

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Professional athletes are used to spending half of their time in hotel rooms while on the road, but after getting traded, that hotel room becomes your home until you find a more permanent place to live. For most players, finding that actual home can't be done during a season, particularly if they are traded near the deadline. The relief of returning home at the end of a road trip is replaced with being dropped off at yet another hotel.

This routine has become common for Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay. After spending six seasons with the Grizzlies, Gay was traded to Toronto prior to the deadline in 2013. He and his wife moved to the city and spent the rest of that season living out of a hotel, along with their pet dog. That summer, they found a place to call their own. A couple months after that, Gay was sent away to the Sacramento Kings. Two trades in less than 10 months.

Thanks to agents keeping them in the loop and the constant drone of fans relaying every trade rumor to them on their social media channels, most players have no choice but to pay attention to what's going on the week of the deadline. Gay knew there was a chance he would be moved from Memphis last year and, like Gortat, tried to be prepared if the call came.

"You're really lost. You don't know anything about the future."  -Marcin Gortat

"I figured as soon as it happened, I packed a suit," Gay said. "With the NBA you never know when you're going to need a suit, so I had one anyway."

And when the trade actually happened, the next day was a blur.

"I woke up at 6 a.m, went to sleep maybe 3 a.m. [the previous night]," he said. "Woke up, got on the plane, headed to Toronto, did the press conference, slept for 45 minutes and then played. When I got here, in preparation for the game, I sat down with one of the coaches for maybe five minutes. He told me just to go play."

That night, Gay scored 20 points in 33 minutes to lead the Raptors to a 25-point win over the Clippers. In Gay's first night in a Kings uniform, he scored 24 points on 8-for-12 shooting.

Focusing on the game is key when everything else is so in flux. Ray Allen has been dealt twice in his career, once at the trade deadline in a blockbuster deal to Seattle and once on draft night in 2007 to the Celtics. A meticulous planner that lives by his routine, Allen said the key is centering yourself through your play on the court.

"Just control what you can control," Allen said. "You don't trade yourself. Sometimes behavior can get you traded, but you have to control playing basketball and you give yourself the best chance of being where you want to be."

He admitted it's not always easy to stay focused on basketball in the days following a trade.

"You've got half your clothes, someone is sending you [the rest of your] clothes, it's a stressor," Allen said. "If you don't have it together, your play on the floor will kind of lag a little bit.

"The first thing somebody says is, ‘You get paid a lot of money,' but the money has nothing to do with it," he continued. "It's still throwing somebody out of their comfort zone. If you do that to anybody in any walk of life, it would throw them off their rocker a little bit. Even if a guy requests a trade, you're still in for it. It's an adjustment."

Mason agreed.

"The court is actually the safe haven," Mason said. "We've been doing this our whole lives. A lot of times, we've played for a lot of AAU teams, so the basketball part, while it's an adjustment for sure, that's actually the one area where we're still playing basketball. The tough part is outside, off the court. That's the stuff that doesn't get mentioned much."

Gortat singled out the Wizards for helping to make his transition as smooth as possible. Teammates Nene and Jan Vesely taught him the city and team trainers and equipment managers offered drives home while he waited for cars to get delivered or didn't know where he was going.

"You're really lost," Gortat said. "You don't know anything about the future, you don't know anything about how it's going to be for the next few days, how it's going to be for the rest of your life, how your career is going to look, how you'll adjust to a new team."

Mental exhaustion was a common theme raised in these discussions. In addition to learning a new playbook, new coaching staff and new teammates, players also needed to worry about cars, clothes, phone numbers and -- in Gay's and Mason's cases -- family passports. Those with families also had children and spouses to transport.

"Sometimes, it feels like people think we don't get tired," Gay said. "We travel like 1,500 miles in less than 24 hours. Two or three different cities in less than 24 hours. Your stuff is all over the place. You don't know what to wear or even how you're going to get to the gym."

Professional sports is a place where grown men get paid incredible sums of money to play a kids game, but it is a business. Remaining even-keeled while playing in a league where everything can change overnight can be a challenge. Just because athletes are well-compensated doesn't mean picking up and moving to a new city overnight is not draining.

While Gortat welcomed the trade to Washington, he succinctly summed up the hassle of being traded.

"It's a pain in the ass."

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