A short while after the 2014 trade deadline passed without activity from his team, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens stepped out onto a rooftop balcony at a glitzy Beverly Hills hotel with Rodeo Drive providing the backdrop and playfully announced, "Nothing happened!"
Stevens had just emerged from his first trip through the NBA trade deadline and, after hinting for days that his team was unlikely to make a move, Stevens was vindicated when Boston emerged with its roster intact.
Now, despite the fact that the Celtics have already made nine trades since the start of the 2014-15 season, Stevens, who has made a public pledge for minimal roster overhaul, will jump back into the trade deadline spin cycle and he'll do all he can to keep the focus on reality in a time dominated by rumors.
Stevens and his Celtics reconvene from an extended All-Star break on Wednesday evening in Sacramento and team members will be peppered with questions about Thursday's deadline. Team members will almost certainly downplay the chatter that precedes the annual February swap stoppage and stress that they are proceeding as if this will be their team for the rest of the season.
In fact, Stevens could probably just dust off what he said last year in advance of the deadline.
"I think the trading deadline is going to be full of rumors and part of it is, because there’s a deadline on Thursday, that more [rumors] are going to be created," Stevens said last February in Phoenix. "What we’ve got to do is, ‘OK, this is where we are.’ I like our locker room. I like the vibe of our locker room and so I’m focused on the guys that are here. The other part is, I’m fortunate that’s my job. I get to focus on the guys that are here. I haven’t put too much time thinking about things that aren’t."
Trade deadline week is Pixy Stix for sugar-craving NBA junkies. Fans obsess about every rumor and report, all while those actually inside the war room of NBA front offices will monitor their Twitter timelines and chuckle at all the twists, turns, and breathless speculation -- much of which will be overstated or simply untrue. Most substantial trade chatter will remain under wraps until a deal is truly close to completion (or until after the deadline passes and teams quietly divulge what could have been).
Like many fan bases across the NBA, Celtics supporters will hold out hope for a franchise-altering deal. ESPN's Trade Machine will be inundated with scenarios that could deliver DeMarcus Cousins to Boston, even though new Kings coach George Karl called Cousins the most talented big man in the league and pledged to build around him during his introductory press conference on Tuesday. Boston fans will concoct trade packages for Ty Lawson, Enes Kanter, and Goran Dragic because, in month 20 of a painstaking rebuild, fans yearn for the sort of individual talent that can help Boston take the next step forward.
And yet the most likely scenario for Boston on Thursday is for the deadline to quietly pass without activity.
Make no mistake, the Celtics -- with potential to be a buyer, seller, or facilitator -- certainly could be involved in any activity that occurs on Thursday. Ainge has pledged to be ready and opportunistic, but the past three deadline days have seen the Celtics make a total of one swap: Acquiring Jordan Crawford from the Wizards in 2013.
Those Boston fans that yearn each year for a big-splash move got one in 2011 when the team traded Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green. Those same fans haven't stopped grumbling about it since.
All of which is to say, enjoy the next couple days and the buzz the deadline creates. It's a fun time of year for NBA fans, even if only to daydream a bit. Forgive Stevens -- and others like him -- who will be much happier when the focus is back on the court on Friday.
The Celtics will likely have some sort of roster tweak by week's end, even if it's the much-speculated buyout of Tayshaun Prince, which will ease the logjam on the wing and ensure rookie James Young gets more time over the final two months of the regular season.
But Boston doesn't have to make any other moves. It can gauge the price tags on any intriguing players that become available and maintain a high price tag for their veterans with expiring deals that they are willing to move. Boston can also remind teams that they have the sort of salary flexibility and trade exceptions that the Celtics would be happy to use to help facilitate a deal (in exchange for some future assets).
Acknowledging the approaching deadline last week, Stevens said, "It is what it is. The one thing I’ve learned is just kinda be ready for anything. Coach that team that there’s as well as you can."
Stevens then added another small pitch for maintained continuity and minimal change. Yes, you get the sense that, unless Boston gets an offer it can't refuse, he'd be just fine with being able to declare, "Nothing happened!" again this year.