Cohen: The Real March Madness This Year

By Josh Cohen
March 10, 2012

ORLANDO -- It’s that time of year, March Madness!

This is the occasion where mind-blowing anticipation and suspense supersedes all else.

This is the moment where ordinary names transform into headliners and unverified athletes have the opportunity to reinvent themselves.

This is the event where you and your family and friends spend countless hours arguing and debating all the boundless possibilities.

I know, I know. It’s the start of the NCAA Tournament.

But no, that’s not what I am referring to.

This is NBA trade deadline week – perhaps the most fascinating sports happening of the year.

Sure, college basketball this month will be engaging. And yes, it will be interesting to see if another Cinderella school can overcome the odds or if a powerhouse like Kentucky and North Carolina cut the nets at its conclusion in New Orleans.

However, all that excitement and ambiguity in the collegiate ranks doesn’t come close to what is in store for us in this potentially unprecedented week in the NBA.

The NBA Trade Deadline has developed into a spectacle of sorts. For months after franchises formulate their rosters for the start of training camp, all the insiders shove incessant gossip in your ear about what may, could, should, will happen by this enthralling date.

I have documented my thoughts in the past about how engrossed we are by trade speculation and team architecture. Sports fans, especially in the NBA, tend to be more intrigued about player movement and team transformation than the actual games themselves.

If you watch ESPN on a daily basis, you are sure to get a big dose of Chris Broussard, Ric Bucher and other NBA reporters sharing their latest insight and supposition. When you search the Internet for the latest NBA news, all you scoop up is something like this: “Sources close to the situation say Team A has discussed a potential deal that would send Player X to Team B for Player Y.”

You also get all the opinions from people just like you and I. You get bloggers recommending teams trade this guy for that guy. You get all the outlooks like: “This team should start to rebuild, while this organization should go all in and try to win the title this season.”

We all know this can be a big distraction for the players. In no other business or industry can an employee get traded from one company to another.

But in professional sports, lives get quickly altered. On Monday, a player can be dressed in red and white and on Tuesday he can be sporting the colors blue and black. On Wednesday, a player can be living in Chicago and on Thursday he can be a resident of New York. On Friday, a player can be on a championship level team and on Saturday he can be a part of a rebuilding process.

In Orlando, this year’s trade deadline will be more significant and absorbing than any prior year. The future of Dwight Howard remains distorted with astounding vagueness encircling the team and league as a whole.

It’s not much less beguiling in other cities like Boston – will the C’s trade Rajon Rondo or any of the Big Three – or Los Angeles – will the Lakers part ways with Pau Gasol?

We observed how mesmerizing the entire Chris Paul saga was back in December. It captured everyone’s utmost attention and ultimately created one of the biggest stirs in NBA history.

But trade deadlines always stretch far and away from just one team. Every NBA general manager this week won’t be getting much sleep and if you need to get in touch with any of them for some rudimentary request, you will probably have to leave several voicemail messages prior to a callback.

While it’s undeniable that most sports fans -- the die hard kind, the casual observers or those that only pay attention when sports become reality television – absolutely are obsessed with all the trade chatter, there is proof there is at least one person who isn’t all that interested.

Stan Van Gundy has a hard time understanding why people get so fascinated by all the gossip and rumblings, which is not something he pays much attention to.

"I guess hope is what it's about," he said. "It's the hope of who you might get next that will make us better. But I'm not like that."

"As a baseball fan, I'm into the games. If a team makes a move I am interested. But I'm not sitting here interested in who they might get. That doesn't interest me a little."

I wouldn’t be shocked, nonetheless, if the key words “NBA Trade Rumors” is the No. 1 topic trending on Twitter and across all Internet search engines this week.

Definitely ahead of your commute to work or school, almost certainly before packing your lunch, sometimes prior to your morning shower and shave and occasionally preceding the alarm clock reverberating in your ear, you will probably search the Internet for the latest NBA trade gossip.

At 8 a.m. you will read that Player A is on the verge of getting traded to Team S and then at 12 p.m. you will dig up a rumor that instead of getting dealt to Team S he will now be traded to Team G.

Don’t be surprised this year since the NBA trade deadline passes the same day as the start (not including play-in games) of the NCAA Tournament if you are more captivated by where your favorite players are potentially getting traded to rather than what schools are advancing past the First Round.

If what transpired in December with Paul was any indication of what we can expect, this week could turn out to be something beyond extraordinary. And this year, we can truly nickname this month, “March Madness!”

How interested will you be this week with all the trade speculation and possibilities?

How interested will you be this week with all the trade speculation and possibilities?

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