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How to Make the Most of an NBA Trade Demand

Kevin Love has brokered his way off of a team before, but he’s having a slightly more difficult time this go-around. So is Dewayne Dedmon. Here are some tips to make a trade request go as smoothly as possible.

If the Duke and Duchess of Sussex hooped, they’d be getting fined out of their minds right now. On Wednesday, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced that they were stepping back from their senior roles in the royal family. They were publicly demanding an out.

“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution,” the couple said in a statement.

This has all the verbiage of a classic trade request, minus the part about staying in the institution. The broad strokes of this statement could’ve worked for Kyrie Irving, Dennis Rodman, Vince Carter, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Shaq, or any other NBA player who has looked for an out in their career. Last week, the NBA fined Dewayne Dedmon $50,000 for telling The Sacramento Bee that he “would like to be traded” to a place where “my talents are appreciated.” Same thing Harry and Meghan are saying.

It wasn’t a smooth trade request because of the fine, yet Dedmon’s done everything else correctly with his effort on the court and attitude toward his teammates. So how do you make the perfect request? Here are seven pieces of advice, along with the players who best embodied each:

Say everything by saying nothing.

As demonstrated by: Kevin Love

Love is not new to forced exits. He arrived in Cleveland the same way he hopes to leave, via trade demand. You have to know how to work the media, which he does. See Dedmon’s mistake above. You need the media to know what you want without directly telling them (a common expectation in romantic relationships, too) so the NBA doesn’t slip a ticket under the windshield. Channel your inner 2018 draft night Woj.

After Love’s on-court outburst last week, he expressed remorse to reporters. “I don’t care if I’m here for five more months or five more weeks,” Love said. “I’m going to try to do my best by these guys and by the coaching staff.” Watch the wizard work: He tucked a reference to a desired departure into an apology to his team. He’ll be a better man, guys, whether he’s here for five months, five weeks, five days, or five minutes—but staying is not included in the choices. Redemption of his character, reiteration of his mission. Love has yet to be traded.

Take advantage of social media.

As demonstrated by: Eric Bledsoe

In this age, social media engagement is essential for your #brand. Adding your own voice—something that differentiates you from other accounts online—as well as personal tidbits about yourself lets followers feel more connected to your #content. Take Bledsoe’s personality-filled approach: Three games into the 2017-18 season with the Suns, he tweeted “I Dont wanna be here.” Abstract and open to interpretation, the statement left his followers wanting more, and his bosses wanting him gone.

“He won’t be with us going forward,” said former Suns GM Ryan McDonough the next day. Bledsoe told McDonough that the tweet was about a hair salon, not Phoenix. “He said he was at a hair salon with his girl and that he didn’t wanna be there anymore.” McDonough didn’t buy it, nor did the NBA, who fined Bledsoe $10,000. He was traded on November 7 to Milwaukee, just 16 days after the tweet.

Delegate to a professional.

As demonstrated by: Anthony Davis

There are unavoidable consequences to making a trade demand public. Some thousands of dollars in fines later, it ultimately worked for Davis, who was dealt to L.A. over the summer. But he could’ve never done it without his agent, Rich Paul, whom he hired four months earlier. (I can’t say he hired Paul for this specific reason, because that’s speculation, and I would never; what I will say is that Klutch Sports is incredibly proficient in getting players what they want.)

According to Davis, “We never wanted it to go public.” AD told The Times-Picayune that it only happened because a reporter called Paul and asked. Interestingly enough—though devastating for AD’s position—talking to a reporter is actually the most effective method for making something public. But what he’s clarifying is that it wasn’t Paul who initiated the call(s) to the media. Paul remembers it less innocently.

“It was necessary to go public,” Paul told Sports Illustrated in June. “When I told you, ‘Here’s our intentions,’ and you say, ‘Hey, let me talk to ownership,’ and instead of you talking to ownership you call Anthony Davis? That’s called being ignored.”

Davis wanted to keep it quiet; Paul went cacophonous. Paul’s plan worked.

Be passive-aggressive.

As demonstrated by: Paul George

Rather than request a trade, George told the Pacers in 2017 that he wasn’t planning on re-signing the following summer. This strategy, the courtesy cut-off, forces the front office to act without the player actually demanding anything. They don’t want to lose you. But if you’re going anyway, they don’t want to lose you for nothing.

George was dealt to the Thunder on June 30, not two weeks after the initial report about his intentions with the Pacers dropped. That approach to the trade demand worked, with a silver lining for Indiana. Rather than lose their franchise cornerstone without a consolation prize, the team exchanged George for Victor Oladipo and some change.

Feelings are still hurt in Indiana. George was booed in December, two years and two teams later, when the Clippers played in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (George mysteriously told reporters after the game, “You know, someday I’ll do a tell-all and tell the leading events of how I left Indiana. And I promise you, I’m not the one to boo.” WHO IS???) Unfortunately for George, when he wanted to be traded from the Thunder, he still had three years left on his contract, and the passive-aggressive threat of departure was not an option.

Use a hands-on approach.

As demonstrated by: Latrell Sprewell

Or, you know, don’t.

Gaslight the entire organization.

As demonstrated by: Jimmy Butler

Because Tom Thibodeau was still contemplating (or ignoring, refusing, etc.) the trade request Butler made a month earlier, Butler decided to convince every person in the organization one by one that it was time for him to go. He barged in on a now-infamous team practice in October 2018, rallied a couple of garbage-time players in a scrimmage against the starters, and took turns fervidly addressing Thibs, general manager Scott Layden, and teammates individually. My favorite line from practice is Butler yelling, “You fucking need me, Scott. You can’t win without me,” because, coming from someone who wants to leave so desperately that he’s held a practice hostage, it makes no sense.

It actually wasn’t that constructive, since Thibodeau interprets that kind of fanatical intensity as respect, but Butler was still traded to the Sixers a month later.

Wine and dine them.

As demonstrated by: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

When Kareem told Bucks brass he wanted to be traded, he had a championship, two Finals appearances, three MVP awards, and was actively digesting a beef Wellington. They had all been at dinner together on October 3, 1974, a lovely evening of red wine and assorted cheeses. Kareem waited until the meal was finished. “I told them I really wasn’t interested in signing up again,” he said.

This didn’t work instantly, but Milwaukee eventually sent Kareem to Los Angeles on June 16, 1975, and he began the rest of his career where he’d end it: a city filled with good dinner spots.