Inside the world of an NBA free agent
JUL 06, 2012 5:17p ET
You don't know where you're going to play. It could be as far northeast as Boston, southeast as Florida, southwest as California, northwest as Portland or anywhere in between.
And you don't know how long you will be there, it could be just nine months...or longer.
Every conversation I have with of late starts with, "where are you going to play?"
To which I reply, "I don't know."
In what should be a very stressful time for me, I place the mountain of stress on my agent, Todd Ramasar, and his shoulders at BDA. Do or die time. It's the 4th quarter of the player-agent relationship.
Every free agency for the last six years Todd's found a way to make it happen for me. He's a straight shooter to a fault, which had ended in several heated arguments between the both of us, but we always work it out. Point for point and ego for ego, we have been through it all.
My first years of free agency I asked Todd a million questions, "where am I going?"
"What's taking so long?"
"Why can't I play there?"
Knowing how hard I worked to get here, I grilled him up and down. As always, Todd shot me straight, letting me know the reality of the business. As a veteran now we work more as a team, my eye for the game has changed. Free agency works in tiers, where GMs lay the foundation of the team first targeting the big star, and then fill in with all the complimentary pieces. What do the tiers mean to me? It means I have to wait and let the dust settle before I know where I'm going. You get alerted about a team's interest but won't truly know until all the signings and trades follow through.
The NBA evolves daily, one player moves and another one comes in and replaces him. Nothing is permanent. You've got to pay attention to signings, trades and injuries that could open or close opportunities in moments. I see it kind of like "the butterfly effect," one change on one team alters the history of the team and the league. Indiana's Roy Hibbert staying or leaving changes either team, leaving them with or without a need for a center, while a possible Dwight Howard trade could reshape up to four teams. Think about the twist in LA last year, a confirmed trade for Chris Paul was then veto'ed, changing the Lakers, the Clippers and the Hornets in the process. Heck that move tilted the power in the West and forever changed the Clippers franchise.
Not much can surprise at this point, it's a business and nothing's personal.
A quick way to a shorten a career is holding a grudge. Everyone knows everyone. Look at Gregg Popovich's coaching tree and how far it has spread across the NBA. So what seems as a simple grudge can hinder you from another team. Every day, executives and coaches talk amongst one another about players and their reputations.
Front office execs and coaches often move from one organization to the next and you can never take things personal or hold a grudge in this business because you don't know where a coach or executive will end up next, and you know execs and coaches talk amongst one another about players and their reputations.
Players speak of free agency frequently during the season and during down time. As such a competitive game, everyone's trying to win and ready to do anything for an edge. Probably the biggest compliment you can hear is from a fellow peer, "we could use you," or "we don't have a guy who could do that." Ultimately, the final say comes from the GM and head coach, but we all love to feel responsible in the signing of a fellow player.
Signing with a new team means playing in a new city. For a kid who grew up in the same home and never schooled past walking distance, then went to college just 45 minutes away, the NBA's movement was a culture shock for me. My first move was the hardest, but now heading into my seventh season, I'm accustomed to the moves and grateful for my experiences.
This summer will be filled with excitement and anticipation as I await word on the next chapter in my NBA career. It is an honor and a privilege to have played six years in the NBA, I can't wait for No. 7.
Follow Ryan on Twitter: @TheRyanHollins