Cohen: The Speed of Player Movement

By Josh Cohen
December 10, 2011

ORLANDO -- Since free agency began on Friday, it has felt like player signings – or at minimum verbal agreements – have ensued faster than Ryan Leaf’s professional football playing career (sorry, just had to say it).

The rapidity should come as no surprise considering training camp is already under way. But for every player signature and contract agreement, there is a trade rumor flowing around the media.

Before you have time to switch your attention to other interests, you are blindsided by more NBA trade gossip. And as you probably are aware of after reading this, you are probably addicted to all the intrigue.

It sometimes feels like players are traded away almost instantly after they sign with teams.

It’s laughable in some ways. There could almost certainly be a comedy skit on it. Here is an embroidered timeline of team architecture (the humorous and outlandish version):

Tuesday: Jacob (imaginary player) agrees to a three-year contract with the Baltimore Crab Cakes (read this to understand where that team name originated from)

Two Days Later: Jacob signs his three-year contract with Baltimore and after his introductory press conference buys a house next to Cal Ripken Jr.’s mansion.

Three Days Later: Jacob learns from his agent that he is being discussed in a possible four-team trade. Details are generally vague, but Jacob is reportedly being sent to the Montreal Freeze.

One Day Later: Just four days after committing to the Crab Cakes, Jacob is dealt to the San Diego Earthquakes in a totally unsuspecting blockbuster trade. Jacob is forced to sell his house and convince his wife that although they need to move after living in Maryland for less than a week, San Diego at least has nicer weather.

Two Hours Later: After flying to San Diego to meet his new teammates, Jacob is told to pack his bags again. He has been traded to some expansion team in Quebec for some colder temperatures and the French language.

30 Minutes Later: Jacob has a player option in his contract and decides to terminate the contract. Free agency starts all over again.

I know. I know. This sketch is totally blown out of proportion. But really, it often feels like players are being traded – or least discussed in trades – just as frequently.

There have been four players, Jim Jackson, Tony Massenburg, Kevin Ollie and Chucky Brown, in NBA history to have played for 12 teams throughout their respective careers. Some teams they joined as a result of signing as a free agent and in other cases it was a result of a trade.

We know it entertains us. We know we are obsessed with all the chatter and proposals. But, is it proper for players, who choose to commit to a specific organization, to be on the move so often?

It makes you wonder: when players sign contracts with teams, are they really just signing a league contract?

Is there language in the contract that utters, “On Monday you will definitely play for the Tampa Bay City Slickers, but on Tuesday you may play for the Jacksonville Georgians or the Kansas City Musicians?

While trades keep fans from every market in any sport immersed, do players get aggravated and perturbed by all the constant movement?

During last season, I spoke to a few players in the NBA about this and they all said that it’s something they never take personal. They understand it’s a business and franchises must do whatever necessary to improve their respective teams.

But it’s also clear that some of the players become distracted by the gossip and can find it difficult to remain committed to a team when it’s possible he may be dealt to another team.

“You try to make the city that you play in your home, but it’s hard to do it because once you get established and comfortable and settled, anything can happen,” Pau Gasol told ESPN.com on Friday after he was reportedly dealt to Houston in a three-team trade before it was blocked.

“Everybody’s looking to improve the team,” said Kevin Martin, who was also involved in the trade proposal. “I’m just here to play so I really don’t have any questions for anybody.”

It’s very dignified for these players to remain professional and not react with hindrance.

Fans enjoy the commotion so if nothing else, players can look at it like they are tolerating it for the fans.

Do you think teams should be allowed to trade players at any point during the length of their contract?
Do you think teams should be allowed to trade players at any point during the length of their contract?
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