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The VICE Sports Emotional Guide To The NBA Trade Deadline

In which the writer Corbin Smith speculates wildly on the emotional and spiritual reactions of each of the players traded at this year's NBA trade deadline.

by Corbin Smith
Feb 19 2016, 5:31pm

Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

A 33-year-old Kevin Martin, the end of a distinguished playing career rushing up as he toils away on a shitty team, is giving it his all. He knows what this means: trying to be a good role model, surrendering minutes to younger teammates without complaint, doing what he can in the time that he has. And this has delivered to him ... what?

He stares out the window of his condo. Frozen wasteland. Plants literally turning brown, then black, then freezing into solid black ice, then shattering. He is silent, but a vein in his forehead surfaces, bulges. I deserve better than this, he thinks.

"Motherfucker, I deserve better than this." He says, to the large and half-empty house he is renting. "I DESERVE BETTER THAN THIS."

Read More: Uncertainty Is The Only Clear Winner At NBA Trade Deadline

Martin calls his agent. "Do something," he says. It is a plea in the form of a command.

Next thing you know, the saddest tweet in existence. An openly thirsty appeal to the league's GMs, the general public, the commentariat, people sitting nearby at the Eden Prairie, MN branch of Chipotle, that KEVIN MARTIN is DONE being a babysitter and ready to get back to business of real basketball. Do you think that anyone becomes a professional athlete so they can be well-respected in the office? Fuck no, you want to drill buzzer beaters and stunt, haul in armfulls of cash, take in the pure and perfect admiration of an arena full of people. Grinding out a teacher-teacher season in your thirties is fucking terrible when you're not injured and you have the sky-high self concept of, for instance, a professional athlete.

I mention all this to open your mind to a truth: there are a lot of feelings wrapped up in the trade deadline. Families have to move, working situations are turned upside down, preferred local restaurants are abandoned altogether. It can be stressful, depressing, or a liberation. So how does everyone who got dealt feel about what happened to them yesterday? I broke it down.

COURTNEY LEE TO CHARLOTTE; PJ HAIRSTON, CHRIS "THE BIRDMAN" ANDERSEN AND FOUR PICKS TO MEMPHIS; BRIAN ROBERTS TO MIAMI (Later traded to Portland)

The Memphis Grizzlies are a cavern of glorious madness. But Courtney Lee is a more taciturn character. He is looking forward to a future where he doesn't have to square off against Tony Allen in practice, but he is sad that he won't be able to collect any more material for his shocking tell-all book about his time with the G'n'G Grizz:

His other book is a YA Novel about basketball and overcoming prejudice. It's pretty good.

Birdman, for his part, is sad for now. Miami is a nice city with a lot of fun activities. Knowing he will be amongst fellow maniacs in Memphis is soothing. But he will soon be ETERNALLY grateful as he gradually discovers that Memphis is the dirtbag-garage-rock capital of the universe. I very nearly envy him. His record collection will improve significantly.

PJ is probably struggling with being traded this early in his career. He knows that this is the first step in becoming a transitory player, someone always in the latest trade for picks, moving in and out of rotations, before his eventual productive-but-lonesome exile to China. No one wants that for themselves or their loved ones. But somewhere he feels the tug towards a better future. This is because PJ Hairston has very little concept of fair play and he's headed to the team that will know how best to mold him into the widely hated wing defender that lives, scheming, deep in his liver.

TRADE: TOBIAS HARRIS TO DETROIT, BRANDON JENNINGS AND ERSAN ILYASOVA TO THE ORLANDO MAGIC

Tobias wept actual tears of joy when he learned that he would finally be allowed to flee the despotism of Scott Skiles. No more arbitrary benchings. No more picking up pallets full of Preseco from that shady port in Titusville. No more waxing The Head for punishment. Tobias heard that sometimes players have to file SVG's corns, but he's okay with that. He doesn't think feet are that gross, on balance.

Jennings seems pretty okay with it:

As a player, when you change your number without changing your team, you have to pay your team for the merchandise they printed but can't sell now that it's outmoded. Brandon was riding pine and weighing changing his number against his current on-court-post-injury-struggles contract and then BOOM, traded, free shot, let's do this buddy. Congrats to Brandon Jennings!

Ersan hasn't had a totally concrete idea of what team he's playing on for the last three years, he just goes from airport to airport, hotel to hotel, gym to gym, public appearance to public appearance without thinking much about WHERE he is. America all looks the same to him, with varying degrees of miserable cold or insane humidity. He misses his old home, maybe. Or maybe he misses having one.

TRADE: JARNELL STOKES AND CA$H TO NEW ORLEANS, SECOND ROUND PICK TO MIAMI

Jarnell, who hasn't been terribly accomplished in the NBA, is pumped to get to a worse team so he can "angle" for major minutes. Jarnell Stokes loves fishing, by the way. That's why I said "angle," because it's what fishermen do.

See! Proof that I didn't just make that up.

Cash, the other party in the deal, feels amazing. It is legal fucking tender, the most powerful force on Planet Earth. It always feels amazing.

TRADE: DONATAS MOTIEJUNAS TO DETROIT, JOEL ANTHONY (Later shipped to THE SIXERS) AND A 2016 FIRST ROUNDER TO DETROIT

Donatas never has to talk to Dwight Howard again. Tell me: how would you feel?

Being the anchor weight in a trade for a younger player and THEN getting shipped to The Damned Sixers before getting waived as hell has Joel Anthony feigning depression in public. But inside, dude is whoop-whooping. Because now that no one is going to take a serious run at signing him in the offseason, he can finally devote all his time to build his perfectly cubic, grey dream house he on the outskirts of suburban Calgary. He will raise ten very well behaved, mid-sized dogs and grow heirloom varieties of lettuce.

TRADE: CHANNING FRYE TO CLEVELAND, JARED CUNNINGHAM, FUTURE CAVS SECOND TO ORLANDO, ANDERSON VAREJAO, CAVS 2018 FIRST TO PORTLAND

Channing knows what happens when you play with Lebron. Intense, complicated friendship, lots of hanging out, and, eventually, the opportunity to own a giant castle. That "King" stuff? That's not marketing, guys. James really wants to establish a feudal domain in the greater Akron metropolitan area, and award all of his preferred teammates with Lands and Lordships. Did you think this friendship shit was a game? Why do you think LeBron gave so much money to Obama?

Image via AKRON VALUES PAC, a SuperPAC dedicated to promoting the legal and military establishment of a permanent Lebron fiefdom in Akron

WAKE UP.

Jared Cunningham, on the other hand, has had his ties to the King severed. He's fucking outside the wall, now, just another peasant. He will NEVER be able to marry his beautiful, morally upstanding daughter off to Mo Williams' perverted dilettante son, solidifying his alliances and collecting a sizeable land dowry he can use to grow expensive grains. He is just a dude who plays basketball and applies scented oils to Skiles' clean-as-hell dome if Skiles thinks he's dogging it on pre-practice laps.

Anderson Varejao—not even a little worried about his place in the kingdom, as he has been promised the North New Franklin area for his lifetime of service to Cavsdom—got waived, which is depressing, because a team paid you to go away and that really is a very deep symbolic wound. But it's also not SO bad, because now he can go to almost any team he wants for, like, nothing, and still make the same amount of money.

Win a title in Golden State? Sure! Sit on Miami Beach at three in the morning after clubbing all night and letting the coming in/going away of the hot South Beach tides take your mind to a place of deep contemplation of death? Hell yeah! File Stan Van's corns in Detroit, keeping the dust and making a powerful tincture of their deepest essence? ABSOLUTELY BABY, SIGN ME UP!

TRADE: SHELVIN MACK TO THE JAZZ, KIRK HINRICH TO THE HAWKS, JUSTIN HOLIDAY AND A SECOND ROUND PICK TO THE BULLS

Kirk Hinrich is having a gravity-warping existential crisis, like he does every time he gets traded away from the Bulls, the only home that ever made sense for him. "There's no order without second round exits," he mutters, over and over, at a homemade shelf full of obscene thimbles.

I'm not totally sure who Shelvin Mack is. Is he married to Candace Parker? If so, he's probably okay, she seems like a nice lady.

Justin Holiday is THRILLED to be in Chi- oh, wait, no, Candace Parker is married to Shelden Williams. Totally different dude. Went to Wake Forest if I remember properly. My apologies.

TRADE: RANDY FOYE TO OKLAHOMA CITY, DJ AUGUSTIN, STEVE NOVAK, TWO SECONDS TO DENVER

Randy Foye is pretty pumped, because he is going to a MUCH better team with faintly absurd title aspirations. Randy really loves faint absurdity. Catch-22 is his favorite novel, as you'll probably learn within the first 30 seconds of talking to him.

Poor DJ's been traded so many times that he feels uncomfortable when a deadline passes and he isn't traded.

Via Basketball-Reference

Augustin has become like Jarrett Jack, only rational and happy in movement.

Steve Novak got waived, pretty big bummer, but considering what kind of career he probably thought he was going to have when he came in (At 23!), he's feeling pretty good. Nothing gets ol' Steve Novak down!

See! He's fine! Excited to return to his true passion: operating a small town veterinarian practice.

TRADE: BRIAN ROBERTS TO PORTLAND, FROM MIAMI, WHERE HE DIDN'T PLAY A SINGLE GAME, AND WAS LITERALLY GIVEN TO THE BLAZERS FOR NOTHING, NOT A SINGLE THING

Brian is thrilled to be headed to one of America's most liveable cities, with reliable and extensive public transportation, a thriving local restaurant scene and close proximity to the beloved American sportswriter Corbin Smith. Of course, he will miss dominating the Blazers, the team against whom he has had most of his finest games. They're really bad at covering pick and rolls, guys.

TRADE: MARKIEFF MORRIS TO WASHINGTON, KRIS HUMPHRIES, DEJUAN BLAIR AND A 2016 FIRST TO PHOENIX

You would think that Markieff, moving away from a team he deeply, deeply hated and moving to a team that needs his skillet specific, a team with the best guard in the league as creating open threes out of tiny little slivers of space, you think he would be pretty thrilled.

But I sense no joy here. Only benign, numb, rolling. Human beings are truly complicated creatures, the only animal who deal with complicated emotion by making the guy you're rolling beside pick up your hoverboard when you hit a bump.

Kris Hump-phries is Pumped-phhries:

Dejuan Blair is never happy. He is haunted day and night by the ghosts of his twin Anterior Cruciate Ligaments, both completely removed when he was in high school. When a part of you, a part you once loved leaves the Earth forever, disposed and decomposed in some biohazard container outside an orthopedic surgeon's house, it changes you. Makes you harder. It can make you cruel.

TRADE: LANCE STEPHENSON AND A FIRST-ROUND PICK TO MEMPHIS, JEFF GREEN TO LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

These teams are united on two fronts: each possesses a white-hot hatred for the other, and they are both victims of the Golden State juggernaut, Memphis literally and Los Angeles more intangibly. I suspect that this trade isn't really meant to benefit either team, but is just a nihilistic play at throwing their most frustrating player at their dearest enemy. Everyone involved, Lance and Jeff and Doc Rivers and Dave Joerger and that eccentric dude who franchises the Grizz and even big goofy Steve Ballmer are frustrated, confused, angry and overflowing with undefined dread and a vision of a Golden wave cresting and drowning them in a tidepool.

Hopefully, the two teams play in a first round series and just straight kill each oth- oh, goddamnit. Shelden Williams went to Duke. How could I forget that!?