Midseason transactions have been tantalizing for many a contender in the National Basketball Association over the years. Those keen on improving their lot are sufficiently enjoined by less-than-stellar showings in the immediate past to push for change — sometimes any change. And then there are those with moist eyes focused on the Larry O-Brien Trophy who believe they’re simply a deal away from making history. It’s why the league has invariably played host to a flurry of activity heading into the trade deadline, catering to both contenders and rebuilders.
That said, not all major moves have worked out well. In fact, longtime habitues of the sport would have to go back to the Rockets’ acquisition of Clyde Drexler from the Blazers in 1995 to find one that led to a championship. The operative word is, of course, “major” — which is to say it involved an incumbent All-Star. The distinction sets aside a handful of other asset swaps subsequently tied to titles at the end of the same season, from where active participants likely get their motivation.
In any case, no eyebrows were raised when the Nets got to field numerous offers for erstwhile foundations Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Theirs is a tale of woe; in three-plus years, they fell prey to a series of unfortunate events that had them exchanging their place alongside the league elite with medium-term mediocrity. In letting go of their marquee names, they actually did well to get a leg up on their reboot. But, bottom line, they remain in search of respect and respectability.
Take the Suns and the Mavericks, whose postseason fates remain to be seen. Even with established star-studded rosters, nothing in the playoffs is etched in stone. More so when there is a question on the length of the adjustment required for things to go smoothly on the court and off. For Durant, there’s the indeterminate amount of time he will remain sidelined due to a medial collateral ligament injury. For Irving, there’s the constant possibility of his mercurial predilections being brought to the fore. The hardware’s in sight, though, so they’re all in — for better or for worse.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.