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NBA trades: Role players on awkward press conferences

NBA trades: Role players on awkward press conferences

Three days before the 2019 NBA Trade deadline buzzed at 3 p.m. ET, the Dallas Mavericks introduced Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke to their local media. It’s a tradition as old as any amongst the league’s trade season, and far predates rumor mongering on social media. When a superstar is dealt, he is welcomed with a flashy press conference, beaming behind a podium, uttering platitudes about fresh starts and promising futures. And he is almost always flanked by role player teammates who are asked virtually no questions and hardly even utter a word.

The Mavericks’ festivities were no different. There sat Porzingis atop a Mavericks-blue dais, white dress shirt casually unbuttoned, revealing a thin gold chain underneath his trendy, maroon blazer. A microphone rested in front of his broad shoulders, just as one did before both Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle and owner Mark Cuban, each flanking Porzingis’ left. To the All-Star’s right, his three teammates and Mavs general manager Donnie Nelson shared two mics. There was no need to pull punches. The NBA is as self-aware a business as it can be fast and cruel. Dallas was ushering in a new era boasting two, young European phenoms. The Mavericks’ additional trio of guards were merely transactional window dressing.

Check the stats. Of the 34 total questions asked during the 31-minute availability, 19 were directed at the Latvian sensation. Cuban, Carlisle and Nelson answered a combined six; and Hardaway, Lee and Burke spoke on a total of nine queries. The time disparity is even greater. It wasn’t until the 8:31 mark of the presser that any of Hardaway, Lee and Burke were lobbed an inquiry. Hardaway was asked about playing in the same city as his father once did. He answered for 16 seconds. At 13:22, a reporter asked Lee and Burke what they hoped to accomplish over the next 30 games and then followed up pondering if reaching the playoffs was indeed a possibility. That entire exchanged lasted merely 50 seconds. In all, three men whose lives in New York City were abruptly upended and shipped halfway across the country spoke on their transition for roughly 5 minutes and 11 seconds.

“It’s not offensive,” says Raptors forward Danny Green, who, traded alongside Kawhi Leonard in July, largely sat quietly during their introductory press conference in Toronto. “I’m enjoying the show same as everyone else.” After Leonard’s opening viral chuckle, it took nearly three and a half minutes for any question to also include Green. The veteran comically quipped his surprise at being included in a question, finally being afforded a chance to talk. “I knew eventually I was going to have to take some questions,” Green says. “I can’t allow him or Masai to be talking the whole time. I got to chime in and answer some questions and be a good teammate.”

When DeMarcus Cousins was introduced by the New Orleans Pelicans in Feb. 2017, it took 10 minutes before any member of the media addressed Boogie’s longtime teammate, and fellow fresh face, Omri Casspi. “Hey, Omri,” a reported finally chimed. “Since we haven’t heard from you just yet…” “It was easy so far, huh?” Casspi cooed. The room erupted in an undivided giggle. The questioner wanted to know Casspi’s thoughts on returning to New Orleans following a previous brief stint. It was the only segment of the 24-minute press conference in which Casspi spoke.  

Justin Patton joined Jimmy Butler’s opening press conference in Philadelphia this past November, a stark contrast from his rookie season, when the Creighton product was included in a 2017 draft night trade that sent Butler from Chicago to Minnesota. Patton, originally selected by the Bulls at No. 16, wasn’t even present at Butler’s glitzy introduction in the Mall of America. “They rolled out the red carpet for me,” Patton quips. The second occasion he moved alongside Butler, it took 24 minutes before a Sixers.com employee asked the young center to describe himself to his new team’s fan base. Patton admits he lost focus at times while Butler, Sixers general manager Elton Brand and majority owner Josh Harris took turns speaking. “I was just looking at the people in the crowd. The suits. Just trying to enjoy the moment,” Patton says. “When I did get asked the question, I didn’t know what it was. I wasn’t paying attention.”

The largest introductory presser in Philly’s history commanded a grand stage, when hundreds of Sixers fans flooded the National Constitution Center at Independence Hall to welcome Andrew Bynum in August 2012. Jason Richardson, an electric Slam Dunk Contest champion and one of the league’s leading scorers for a decade, was merely an afterthought. He smiled patiently as the raucous crowd erupted when Bynum expressed his intent to re-sign long term with the Sixers. “It was actually cool to be a part of it,” Richardson says. “I was the older guy, I was coming towards the end of my career. He was going to be a franchise-type player.”

In total, Richardson was asked only three questions during the 22-minute Bynum extravaganza. “That’s how it goes,” he explains. “During that era, it was still big man basketball. You need a big man to win. He was coming from the Lakers where he won championships. He played with Kobe. He was going to get asked a lot of questions.” Bynum, of course never played a game for Philadelphia. Maybe the presser could have used more Richardson after all.

Article written by Jake Fischer #SportsIllustrated

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