Derrick White didn’t see it coming. It was just hours before the NBA’s trade deadline, a notoriously nerve-racking day. A friend asked White whether he thought he’d get traded, but White shook off the thought. Besides, he was starting to find his groove, averaging career numbers as the San Antonio Spurs’ starting shooting guard. He was sitting in his hotel room, as he and his teammates were beginning a long road trip. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called White to meet. Something shifted in White. He didn’t have the best feeling. He knew something was up. “Pop’s coming to my room,” he called and told his wife, Hannah. “I don’t know what this means.”
Marcus Smart doesn’t take his eyes off the court. Not once. Seated under the basket, he’s polite—warm, even—in answering questions on this February morning. But a faint scowl lines his face. Not in a rude way. In a how can you stare at a court and not want to tear it up? kind of way. It’s 10 minutes before shootaround. Nine hours until the Celtics play the Cavaliers in Cleveland. But when Smart is near a court, he loses track of time. Loses himself between the lines. Enough talking. He’d fly off his chair right now and chase down a loose ball if he could. Screw his knees. His ankles. His arms. His back. Any ligament or joint in his body, really. If a ball is rolling, Smart is diving.
Robinson was the living, breathing, “Break Glass in Case of Emergency” lever teams would pull to inject energy when in a jam. But Robinson’s overflowing personality also irritated NBA coaches. Some found him disruptive and immature, especially during his early years in the league. He was the exclamation point and the run-on sentence; the behind-the-back dime when a simple chest pass would have sufficed.