The NBA trade deadline is fun because it can spiral out in so many different directions. A team can make a trade that helps it win a championship, like in 2004 when the Pistons picked up Rasheed Wallace and then won the title a few months later, or in 2008 when the Lakers picked up Pau Gasol and then won two titles over the next three years.
A team can make a trade that helps it get close to winning a championship, like in 2001 when the Sixers grabbed Dikembe Mutombo and then rode his wagging finger and Allen Iverson’s cornrows to a Finals appearance. And a team can make a trade that helps it not win a championship, like in 2011 when the Knicks turned their franchise into a laundry basket of old T-shirts to get Carmelo Anthony.
A team can make a trade that echoes into eternity in a bad way, like what happened with the Pacers when they got Ron Artest in 2002 and then, in 2004, the Malice at the Palace happened. And a team can make a trade that echoes into eternity in a good way, like what happened with the Cavaliers in 2011 when they were able to flip Jamario Moon and Mo Williams into Baron Davis’s Expiring Contract and also the draft pick that landed them Kyrie Irving, who, five years later, would hit the biggest shot in franchise history.
It’s fun. Real fun, sometimes. But do you know what’s better than Trade Deadline Day? I’ll tell you: Better Trade Deadline Day.
Better Trade Deadline Day is way better. So much better.
The eight biggest trades of Better Trade Deadline Day 2017:
The Spurs, generally quiet on trade deadline day, make two key moves during Better Trade Deadline Day.
First, in a stunning four-team swap, they acquire Giannis Antetokounmpo from the Milwaukee Bucks. The way it works:
- The Spurs send LaMarcus Aldridge to the Pacers.
- Larry Bird, president of basketball operations for the Pacers, obliges because to make for room for Aldridge, he has to send noted Lakers fan Paul George to the Nuggets, which means Bird is responsible for the first fuck-you moment of Magic Johnson’s career as president of basketball operations for the Lakers.
- The Nuggets lose shooting guard Gary Harris. Harris had been trending upward this season, but Nuggets fans are fine with it because they finally have a new Carmelo in Paul George, even if it’s only until he leaves at the end of his contract.
- The Pacers also have to send C.J. Miles to the Bucks, but nobody really cares about that part of the trade. And …
- The Spurs get Giannis. (If you’re like, “There’s no way Jason Kidd would ever let Giannis leave,” I’d like to remind you of that period in the late ’90s when Kidd had his hair unfortunately dyed blond. You can’t count anything out with him.)
So, to recap: Spurs get Giannis, the Bucks get C.J. Miles, the Pacers get LaMarcus Aldridge and Gary Harris, and the Nuggets get Paul George.
That’s not the Spurs’ only move, though. In an even more surprising turn, they announce they’ve also signed two new players for the league minimum. When a reporter asks Popovich who they’ve signed, Pop just smiles his tiny Pop smile, which is to say he frowns. “You’ll see,” he says.
Nothing happens for two months. No new players show up. No news comes out about it. Nothing. Not a thing. Everyone decides it was just an unfunny joke, the only kind of joke the Spurs tell. And then, during the first timeout of their first 2017 playoff game, all the lights in the arena go out. It’s completely black in there. People are freaking out. Not Pop, though. He just smiles again, which is to say he frowns. All of a sudden, the sound of a motorcycle revving up thunders through the arena. Then there’s a big burst of flames. Then C-Murder’s “Down for My Niggas” comes blasting on. Then a spotlight shoots down. It’s Tim Duncan. He’s on a motorcycle at midcourt, doing burnouts with his shirt off. David Robinson is standing there, too. He’s covered in blood, and he’s yelling something about how he’s been delivered back to the court to “smite those who would be impure.” Pop looks over at the scorer’s table. Everyone is shook. “Checking in two,” he says, and he smiles one last time, which is to say he frowns one last time.
The Bulls are able to unload Jimmy Butler to Massachusetts on Better Trade Deadline Day, which they weren’t able to swing on regular trade deadline day. But here’s the thing: They don’t send him to the Celtics. They send him to the Patriots in an ultra-rare cross-sport exchange. In return, the Bulls get tight end Martellus Bennett. It’s a great move by both teams, as Butler appeared on his way out in Chicago and Bennett appeared on his way out in New England. “Martellus brings a great toughness to this team,” says Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg. “He’s the same height as Jimmy, but he’s about 30 pounds heavier, which will help this postseason when he’s gotta go up against LeBron. We’re all just really excited to have added him here.” “Hold on, I’m going where,” says Jimmy Butler when told of the trade.
The Kings don’t make any moves on Better Trade Deadline Day, what with them having already traded away DeMarcus Cousins at regular trade deadline time. The main news comes after Better Trade Deadline Day. GM Vlade Divac is driving home from work when his car spins out of control. He isn’t hurt, but his car does clip a man riding by on a bicycle, knocking him over the edge of a cliff. The man, thankfully, is able to grab hold of a branch to keep from plummeting the 400 feet down. Vlade, a hero, immediately jumps out of his car and runs over to provide assistance. He grabs ahold of the man’s hand. “Don’t let me go!” the man shouts. “Don’t worry,” Vlade yells back. “I won’t let you go. I assure you I won’t let you go.” Moments later, the man slips from Vlade’s grip, falling toward the earth. “Don’t worry!” Vlade shouts at him as he falls. “I won’t let you go! I’m still holding you!” “What,” the man scream-asks back as he continues to fall. “I said, ‘I won’t let you go!’” Vlade says, and he screams even louder because the man has already fallen far enough away that he is going to have a hard time hearing him. “I will never let you go!” The man hits the ground. “I got you!” Vlade yells. “I’ll never let go.”
The Hawks trade Dwight Howard to the Mavericks. The Mavericks immediately try to trade Howard back to the Hawks, but it’s blocked by the no-backsies rule of Better Trade Deadline Day.
The Rockets trade Patrick Beverley to the Raptors in exchange for Lucas Nogueira, Bruno Caboclo, and Delon Wright …
… except in a brilliant bit of subterfuge, the Rockets don’t actually send Patrick Beverley to Toronto, they send a hungry pit bull wearing a Patrick Beverley jersey instead. Nobody in Toronto notices that it’s Pit Beverley and not Pat Beverley, as Pit Beverley immediately proves to be a tenacious defender and lovable teammate. During a postgame press conference, Pit Beverley eats Kibble from a bowl during a Kyle Lowry answer session. “You all do realize that that’s a dog, right?” a reporter asks. “What? Nah,” says Kyle. “People keep saying that.” “They’re saying that because he’s a dog,” the reporter says. “I think I’d know the difference,” Kyle says. “He never talks,” the reporter says, “and sometimes he literally barks during games.” “That’s just Pat being Pat,” says Lowry. “Defensive Player of the Year over there.”
The Timberwolves, hoping to improve their offensive efficiency, ship away human rebound generator Ricky Rubio and replace him with a large stick with a piece of paper attached to it that reads: “OFFENSIVE THREAT.” They just plop it down in the corner-3 area on offense. The addition of STICK + PAPER SIGN opens the floor up a great deal. Karl-Anthony Towns increases his points per game (from 23.7 to 28.1), as does Andrew Wiggins (from 23.2 to 29.4).
The Brooklyn Nets offer four players to the Lakers in exchange for six $50 gift cards to Magic Johnson Theatres. “Which four?” asks Magic. Sean Marks, GM of the Nets, responds, “Man, I honestly do not care. Any four you want.” They were not able to get a deal worked out in time.
The Knicks, who stood pat on regular trade deadline day, also stand pat on Better Trade Deadline Day. “I didn’t want to get rid of anyone,” says Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek. “I just really feel like we have all the pieces here right now to make a big run in the playoffs.” A reporter: “Coach, you all are 23–34. You’re in 12th place in the East.” Hornacek: “I’ll say it again: I didn’t want to get rid of anyone.” Knicks fans are furious, as is the New York media. It’s like living inside of a volcano, is what it feels like for Knicks players and staff. Two weeks later, right when things feel like they’re about to boil over, the Knicks throw a Standing Pat party on Phil Jackson’s yacht to build camaraderie. All the players are there, all the coaches are there. It’s great. It’s a great thing. And everyone on the Knicks is feeling really good about themselves.
“Derrick,” Carmelo Anthony shouts across the boat before it sets out to sea, “do me a favor, bro. Can you grab that ice chest from the floor below?” Rose happily agrees to go get it because he’s in such a good mood from the party. It feels good to be wanted, and to finally be a part of a team that seems like it’s got some rudders. He hops up, jogs down below, grabs the ice chest, then climbs the stairs back up to the yacht’s deck. “Hey,” Rose begins talking before he makes his way to the top of the steps, “do you guys remember when I was in Chicago and I dunked on Goran Dra — .” He stops talking. He’s back up on the deck now. He looks around. There’s no one else there. It’s completely empty. “Guys?” he shouts. “GUYS!?” He drops the ice chest and runs over to the railing. The boat is floating away from the shore. All the other Knicks players and coaches and personnel are back on the pier. They’re waving, smiling, laughing.
Jeff Hornacek cracks a grin. “Sike,” he says to himself.
Nobody ever sees that boat again.