At noon today the NBA’s trading deadline passed. With a record of 21-31, a handful of players due to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the year, and others with bad character reputations, the Trail Blazers were expected to be one of the teams most likely to cut a deal. But when the clock struck noon this afternoon, no deal was done. And I couldn’t be happier.
It’s not to say Portland doesn’t need change. Deservedly or not, coach Maurice Cheeks probably will be gone after the season ends. The team has two legitimate starting power forwards, Zach Randolph and Shareef Abdur-Rahim, the latter of whom is sure to sign with another team as a free agent this summer and could have brought an outside shooter—something the Blazers desperately need. Starting shooting guard Derrick Anderson has been streaky and mostly ineffective. Although he’s been the most consistent player on the team this year, point guard Damon Stoudamire is clearly expendable, not to mention being another free agent at season’s end. And despite signing a contract extension last summer, an outburst against Coach Cheeks has confirmed may people’s fears that even with enormous talent, small forward Darius Miles doesn’t have the character to be a valuable player in this league.
Still, I’m glad Portland didn’t make a deal, because what was available to them right now was just a mirage of help. The main deal Portland reportedly considered would have sent Abdur-Rahim, Travis Outlaw and another player (possibly Ruben Patterson) to the Milwaukee Bucks for Michael Redd and Keith Van Horne. Redd is a free agent at the end of the season as well, and Van Horne has a big, long contract that doesn’t match his value as a player. And I'd hate to see us give up Outlaw, whose career is in its infancy (we did that with Jermaine O'Neal and it bit us in the ass) or Patterson, the scrappy defensive specialist whose insertion into the game always provides a much-needed burst of energy.
General manager John Nash probably felt a lot of pressure to pull the trigger on a deal. Many fans surely felt we didn’t have anything to lose considering that this season is a sinking ship. But I’d like to think the Blazers’ having stood pat as the trading deadline passed is an indication that Nash is willing to take the long view and eschew stopgap trades that happen for little more reason than the sake of doing something. It’s better to steadily, consistently build the right team the right way, even if it takes years.
I also think there’s a larger lesson here. When things aren’t going the way one wants, it’s natural to flail about in search of a fix. To a large degree that’s a good inclination, but there’s also genuine prudence in just waiting and watching until the right opportunities come along. Being in business for myself, I’ve faced that with the inevitability of ebbs and flows in the amount of work I’m getting: Sometimes it’s too much and sometimes it’s not enough. And while I do believe that the modicum of success I’ve had has been due to a certain amount of tenaciousness, I also see that there is virtue in patience. In basketball the cliché is “letting the game come to you”, but clichés become oft-repeated clichés because there’s some elemental truth in them.