This story appears in the March 8 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
Since the trade deadline just passed, some of you are probably wondering why your team shipped a guy out of town. Money is one reason guys get traded. So is talent. But there's a quicker way to be kicked to the curb in the NBA: getting blackballed.
I see it a lot. Take T.J. Ford, for example. He might be on his way, through no fault of his own. The guy had a career year last year, yet he was on the bench for a month -- and he wasn't injured. Players have been buzzing about him lately, wondering why one of the best guys on the Pacers isn't playing much. It could be anything. I know of a situation in which a starter got benched because the owner's son is friends with the guy who replaced him.
Stuff like that happens all the time, and it's not always the coaches making the decision. Sometimes it comes from above. I'm pretty sure, for example, that Javaris Crittenton will be blackballed after his gun incident with Gilbert Arenas. Gilbert is a former All-Star with a big contract. He'll play again. But most players think Javaris is done, that GMs won't touch him. That's just wrong.