Jason Smith on free agency: Business of basketball 'not fun' originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
NBA free agency is taking place later in the year than it usually does, but the frenzy of it all hasn’t been any less than normal. In fact, for players and front offices, it may be a little more hectic, with the signing period taking place a lot closer to the start of the season than in a normal league year.
This time in the NBA calendar is always exciting for fans, filled with hope about how much their teams can improve with just a few calculated moves. But that thrill is not always shared by the players, particularly those who could be moved from their current situations as a result of who their teams add.
As former Wizards center Jason Smith explained on NBC Sports Washington’s Free Agency Live Facebook stream, the business of basketball is not fun. As an example, he cited one of the craziest free agency moments from his 11-year NBA career.
“One of my craziest would definitely be the first time that I got traded. I was with the Philadelphia 76ers. Two days before training camp is supposed to start, I get traded down to New Orleans, Hornets at the time,” Smith said. “Willie Green, [and] myself were in the trade. I was like, ‘Alright, uh, this is a little crazy, training camp supposed to start in two days, I’m a little out of sorts. Ok.’ I get down to the new city, I’m ready to start training camp, they pull me aside, they say, ‘Oh, you guys can’t play, you didn’t pass your physicals.’ So, my mind, I’m like, ‘Uh, do I go back to Philly or am I cut or like, what’s going?’”
The trade occurred on Sept. 23, 2010, just before Smith’s third year in the league. From the outside looking in, it was a standard, run-of-the-mill transaction. But for Smith and the others involved, it was anything but.
“So, low and behold, Willie Green had a cyst behind his knee that he didn’t even know about, wasn’t giving him any problems,” Smith said. “They finally signed off on the trade. Two days later, I was allowed to participate in training camp, and I made a name for myself. I was so happy just to play basketball.”
For Smith, the uncertainty of it all made the situation rough. All he wanted to do was put the business behind him and get on the court. With news and rumors and reports flying around on social media, players today likely feel the same way he did.
“You put that stuff in limbo out there, you don’t know if you’re playing, if you’re not playing, if you’re traded, if you’re not traded. It’s not fun to deal with the business of basketball,” Smith said. “But when you keep it strictly: go out there, throw the ball up and let’s hoop, that’s what I want to do. That’s what I’m all about.”