PHILADELPHIA -- During Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin's impromptu, 10-minute news conference Sunday morning there was a line by the GM that, in retrospect, was either incredibly prescient or incredibly misleading.
"Unfortunately," Griffin said, "our timing doesn't always match the timing of everybody else. So, until the trade deadline, people don't typically have a lot of reason to do anything at a specific time."
Less than 36 hours later, the Cavs pulled off a blockbuster three-team trade, shipping out Dion Waiters and a couple of bench players in Lou Amundson and Alex Kirk to receive Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith from the New York Knicks and a future first-round pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
I tend to believe Griffin's honesty on the timing part, because if he had known that a deal was so imminent, there's no way word doesn't get passed on from the Cavs' front office to the coaching staff Monday evening in Philadelphia to make sure Waiters stays back at the hotel while the swap is cemented.
Instead, Waiters was left to chat with reporters before the game about how many tickets he had secured for friends and family coming to see him play in his home city ("Too many to count," Waiters said). And he was left to go out on the court in his Cavs uniform and warm-up gear and wave to his people in the stands before the national anthem. And he was even left to be announced last in the starting lineup -- his first start since the third game of the season -- as a solid contingent of the Philly faithful cheered for their hometown son.
The timing was so off kilter, there was just 1:30 left on the clock before tipoff when word finally made its way to the Cavs' bench about what was going down. Waiters, Amundson and Kirk were unceremoniously whisked off the court and back to the injury-free locker room, where they couldn't possibly tweak an ankle or pull a hammy to mess things up.
"I didn't see them," said Kevin Love. "I was on the floor when it happened. I'm usually the first one out to go get a feel for the ball, so I didn't get a chance to say anything to them."
This is the third time I've covered a guy being traded on a game night. The first time, I was in Washington and Sasha Vujacic took the bus to the arena with the Lakers but never made it out of the visitors locker room when the deal was sealed. The second time, I was in L.A. and Steve Blake was out on the court for early warm-ups but had been informed of his fate long before the team took the court for introductions, giving him ample time to change into street clothes and leave the arena before having to digest game strategy on the white board from the coaching staff.
Monday's move was muddled in comparison, but no matter how it went down, what's done is done. "It's part of the business," said Tristan Thompson.
"Guys get traded, waived all the time."
Now the Cavs will hope they have enough time to save a season that has already started to go off the rails with losses in six of their past eight games, nagging injuries to LeBron James and a suddenly sore back for Kyrie Irving (not to mention Anderson Varejao being shut down after Achilles surgery).
They hope that in addressing two of their major three deficiencies in depth (adding two rotation-worthy players in Shumpert and Smith while only subtracting one in Waiters) and defense (as long as Shumpert can return from his dislocated left shoulder to be the perimeter stopper he was in the past), they'll still have enough assets in their cupboard between two 2015 first-round picks and a $5.3 million trade exception to bring in a burly, rim-protecting big man to the mix before it's too late.
If anything, the timing was just right to excuse a disaster of a defeat to the previously 4-28 Philadelphia 76ers (including 0-14 at home), as the Cavs might have suited up just nine guys but managed to waste a 28-point, 19-rebound game by Love while blowing a 17-point, third-quarter lead by giving up a whopping 35 points in the fourth quarter.
The previous paragraph could prove to be a bunch of meaningless numbers if the trade turns out to be a winner in time.