Trading deadline can offer boost or boomerangby J.W. Miller on 02/22/13
The NBA trading deadline has passed, and anybody who roots for the New Orleans Hornicans should be disappointed. Certainly not for the same reason other teams were active, to pick up a player who can make a positive difference down the stretch. No, Hornican fans should be upset because the team did not get rid of a dead weight who is making a difference on the negative side.
Guard Eric Gordon, he of the mysterious and eternal knee injury, was the subject of late rumors in which he was being shopped for players or draft choices. The fact that Gordon was not dealt is not a surprise. He missed most of the 2011-12 season with a knee injury and has only appeared in 19 games during the current campaign. Factor that in with the four-year, $58 million deal the team matched to keep the former Indiana star this summer, and that increased the risk factor well beyond the comfort zone of most NBA general managers.
Gordon's on-today, off-tomorrow alternate-game activation strategy is cautionary, so not to rush his recovery. But it does little for a young team who desperately needs a leader to be on duty night after night. The team will revisit the Gordon situation after the season when the team abandons its transmascot status and becomes the Pelicans. At least the trading deadline offered some hope, which is all the fans want at this time of a long season.
There is never a guarantee of either whatever the sport, and some trading deadline deals can downright boomerang. One of those haunting decisions, at least for Red Sox fans, came on the infamous trade of Jeff Bagwell. Selected in the fourth round of the 1989 draft, Bagwell was traded to Houston on August 30, 1990 for relief pitcher Larry Andersen. The object was to bolster the pitching for a playoff run, but the result was a deal that is now considered one of the most one-sided trades in baseball history. Andersen pitched well down the stretch and helped the Red Sox win the AL East division title. But Boston was swept in the ALCS by Oakland, and then Andersen was declared a free agent in the second collusion settlement. Bagwell went on to a bonafide Hall of Fame career with the Astros, which prompted ESPN viewers to name it the second-worst trade in sports history, behind only the Red Sox trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees.
I recall a similar situation in the NFL that came after the trading deadline that could have resulted in a blockbuster deal because of a quirk in NFL rules. It was 1981, and neither the Baltimore Colts nor the Seattle Seahawks were going anywhere. Colts owner Bob Irsay had a running feud with QB Bert Jones, which was not helped when the LSU product responded to a question about the owner, saying: "I learned a long time ago you don't get in pissing contest with a skunk!" Irsay would not be unhappy if the team traded Jones, and a likely suitor appeared to be Seattle. QB Jim Zorn was not having a great year, and GM John Thompson coveted Jones.
The trade deadline passed, but the waiver rules still applied, which meant that clubs with the worst records had first choice at players who were placed on waivers. At one point late in the season, the Colts had the worst record in the league, and the Seahawks had the second-worst. Which meant, in effect, each team could put their quarterback on waivers with the other team having first option to claim. That would have set up a "trade" of starting quarterbacks that would have been remarkable in normal times, but even moreso because it involved a creative use of the waiver system.
Thompson approached the league office about the legality of such a deal and whether it would be approved, and he knew Irsay would agree in a second. However, at the last minute Thompson backed off. The two teams were stuck with quarterbacks neither wanted. Zorn remained with the Seahawks and was eventually relegated to second-string behind Dave Krieg in 1983 and then cut the next year. Jones was traded to the Rams in 1982, but played in only four games before retiring. If Thompson had gone through with his idea, it might have been the fresh start both quarterbacks needed at a critical point in their careers.