We fans have a tendency to treat the trade deadline with a kind of giddy reverence.
And why not? After all, the thought that your team could improve its long- or short-term fortunes with a single savvy move at this year's Feb. 20 trade deadline is part of what makes these NBA winter doldrums so enjoyable.
A deal involving Evan Turner, Brandon Bass or anyone else in the next week would enthrall multiple fanbases. We'd analyze the on-court and salary-cap ramifications with tremendous detail.
What’s lost, however, is the human toll those trades can take.
In an interview with Yahoo! Spots’ Marc Spears, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul painted a stark, touching picture of what it was like when he first got word of being traded to his new team in December 2011:
Chris Paul stepped onto a private jet here around 5 a.m. on Dec. 15, 2011 for a flight to a new start in Los Angeles. As soon as the ex-New Orleans Hornets star sat down in his seat, the reality of the departure from a city that he loved and a franchise that frustrated him set in and he broke down into tears just before the wheels went up.
"We got on the plane and I laid my head on the window after saying goodbye to the guys at the airport that I used to see all the time. I was emotional," Paul told Yahoo Sports. "You think you were going to have some time to let it set in. But as soon as it happened, all the memories, just leaving… The trade happened at night so it wasn't like you got to tell people bye. It happened and we were gone."
We mortals have a tendency to take for granted how our career transitions actually work. Indeed, few among us have experienced the kind of instantaneous tumult of being told that your life, your work and your family all exist somewhere else.
Of course, the cynic within us must have its retort: that such shocks to the daily system are part and parcel with being paid millions to play a game.
Judging by an earlier report by Spears' Yahoo! colleague, Adrian Wojnarowski, Paul himself was more than prepared for the eventual outcome. His agent told the Hornets then that Paul would "not sign a contract extension" and that he wanted "to be traded to the New York Knicks."
Then again, it's never as easy as you think it'll be. It certainly wasn’t for Paul.
"I was really a part of that city," Paul said. "I honestly can't say one negative thing about the city. If it were not for the city of New Orleans, I'm not who I am now. They just embrace you as family."
Yes, all’s well that ends well. But let us take this as a friendly reminder that, though their on-court feats might sometimes suggest otherwise, basketball players are humans, too.