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NBA Trade Deadline and impact on play

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Does the stress of change impact today’s NBA?

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets
Switcheroo
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It takes a very small amount of water to warp cardboard.

I saw several examples of that chemical reaction in action over the last two days at my workplace, where a tough year pushed my employer to let go of a couple hundred employees in a 36-hour period. I’ve hugged so many folks my arms are tired, and I wish I’d purchased stock in Kleenex on Monday, if only for my own spike in usage on Tuesday and Wednesday. I saw several folks dropping tears onto the tops of cardboard boxes that held what they’d been able to pack up as they headed out to the parking lot. I was one of the lucky folks who kept a job, but the shell-shock of the day was on the faces of everyone I saw. My heart goes out to so many friends and co-workers, as I’ve sat on both sides of the table in those conversations in my career. Good grief.

One of the toughest departures for me personally (and there were many tough ones) was seeing someone let go from my team, a close friend of nearly a decade across a few shared employers… someone who got caught up in the numbers game, who got to go home to his wife, 3-year-old son, and 3-month-old daughter to explain that daddy is looking for a new way to support their family. He was far braver in the face of it than I would have been, an admirable trait. Happily my employer tried to soften the blow for everyone impacted, a nice thing to do in the face of the reasons you’re having to do it.

Moments of change and loss like several of my friends experienced the last couple days can be traumatic in the extreme, even if someone has the financial wherewithal to weather the loss. Psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe invented a widely used stress scale that ranks "dismissal from work" the eighth-most-stressful thing that can happen to an adult. If you want to have a depressing day sometime, go add up your own personal score on the wiki for Holmes-Rahe and grab a beer. Or six.

To try and get my mind off of things, I went to the parking lot to look up NBA news, and was reminded of the impending NBA trade deadline wrapping up today at 1 pm Denver time. Because I’m too often a self-involved bleak freak, it was too easy to draw a few corollaries between my emotions and a few that players might be feeling as the trades and rumors fly, with many not knowing if they or some of their friends and co-workers will still be around when they head to lunch tomorrow afternoon. It’s not the same as the stress of being laid off or fired, for sure… But…

There are also factors that add some stress back to the players’ plate as well, when compared to a job change for Joe Q. Public. Factors like age and maturity, the advice of hangers-on (with agendas of their own), and an overabundance of cash without financial training. All of that played out in the low-pressure joy of having it all happen in front of thousands (or millions) of opinionated and vocal admirers.

Sometimes that change is only to the positive. Take your Denver Nuggets, and their recent trade of Jusuf Nurkic to Portland for Mason Plumlee. The swap seemed to be a breath of fresh air for Nurkic and the Nuggets alike, with both parties coming out of the gates hot. But both also quickly returned to earth, and will now have a new town to adjust to, with pressures to perform and teammates to impress. The Nuggets still here are left to forge a bond with new backup center Plumlee, who has come adjusting of his own to do, both with the team and the other 60% of his daily life.

With every trade that goes down, a guy or seven is headed to a new hometown, uprooting his life for the foreseeable future. Those who are left behind are often still the subject of the trade rumor mill, and players across the board are subject to real or heavily contemplated changes of scenery throughout their career. Hard to imagine that doesn’t impact their game, especially going into the last third of every season, when pressures are intensifying over seeding spots for the playoffs and lottery.

Am I full of sh--, Nuggets Nation? Even as professionals, players are still as human as any of us. Do the pressures of these moves impact a guy’s game? Or do these guys come to play in a vacuum, and let the rest happen off the court? Some of both?