Players try to deal with trade-rumor mill

Social media, Twitter inflame scuttlebutt

Among other things, Jacque Vaughn has dealt with injuries, rookies and a 10-game losing streak in his first season as a head coach. He also noticed along the way that he did not have Dwight Howard.

Next up on Vaughn's agenda: the Feb. 21 trade deadline, and how it can freak out players until it passes.

The Magic will not boldly proclaim that they're looking to deal with everyone and anyone like Sunday's opponent, the Dallas Mavericks. Their owner, Mark Cuban, has declared that "the Bank of Cuban is open."

But the Magic's rebuilding club is certainly listening to teams who are eyeing their modest assets. Everyone should be in play except center Nik Vucevic.

Vaughn's challenge will be to keep his players focused or — as he likes to call it — "in the now."

It's tougher today in an age of 24/7 sports talk and when an instant trade-rumor tweet can have your shooting guard worrying whether he needs to forward his mail.

"I haven't said one thing about the trade deadline or a trade or anything along those lines to any individual," said Vaughn, who added that he could address it at some point.

"Players talk. They are even more accessible these days with the web sites and social media. Some players tell agents [that] they don't want to hear anything; other players can't live in that unknown. It's interesting times.

"It's in your face all the time if you want it to be."

Last summer Arron Afflalo learned that he had been dealt by Denver to Orlando in the Howard deal while reading HoopsHype, a basketball Website.

J.J. Redick, perhaps the Magic player most in demand, has rabbit ears when his name is connected to trade scuttlebutt. He was not happy when a recent West Coast report had him being shipped to Golden State, feeling the rumor was invented.

Redick has been linked to Memphis in a Rudy Gay deal. Just the other day, J.J. had heard that he was "coveted" by Boston.

No wonder he says he has stopped reading HoopsHype, as if it does any good. Once a rumor goes viral, players eventually hear it through breathless friends or family.

And so it goes in the silly season when the Internet gossip flies.

Oddly, Vaughn, mostly a back-up point guard during his 12-year career, can't really speak of pre-deadline jitters. He played for four teams and was never traded. He signed as a free agent in each of his relocations.

Every former Magic coach who played in the league had been traded: Matt Guokas (six times), Johnny Davis (four times) and Doc Rivers (twice).

Heck, even Stan Van Gundy was traded, technically dealt by the Miami Heat to the Magic.

Van Gundy had remained a consultant with Miami after resigning as head coach. When Orlando offered him the job after the Billy Donovan's about-face, Pat Riley demanded a pick (second round) in the 2007 draft as part of the compensation for hiring Van Gundy, adding fireworks to the state rivalry, when it was still a rivalry.

Guokas, who played with Wilt Chamberlain in the mid-'60s and coached Shaq in the early '90s, said he didn't "fret" about being traded.

The world was different back then, before Twitter.

Guokas, the Magic's 68-year-old television analyst, said he remembers a few times being told first by "a media guy" — not the team — that he had been traded. Once, he said, a few of his teammates knew he had been traded but, "They never told me," he laughed.

That was not-so-social media.

bschmitz@tribune.com.

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