SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – When Robert Covington started to hear his name in trade rumors a little over a year ago while he was with the 76ers, he approached coach Brett Brown and the front office to see if there was any validity to what he was hearing. Covington said they told him no, there wasn’t, and his spot in Philadelphia was secure.
Not long after, he was on his way to Minnesota in the Jimmy Butler trade.
It was a trade that upended Covington’s life on and off the court. The trade, plus a season-ending knee injury, contributed to the hardest year of his career. It affected Covington physically and emotionally, and he used therapy to help him work through all that had happened.
A little more than a year later, Covington finds himself again at the center of trade rumors, with ESPN national reporter Adrian Wojnarowski saying on his podcast he expects the Timberwolves to move Covington before Thursday’s trade deadline. This time, Covington has been hardened to the whole process, and he’s insistent that he isn’t focused on these latest rumors.
“If it happens, it happens. If it don’t, it don’t,” Covington said after Wolves’ shootaround Monday in Sacramento, where the Wolves were hoping to halt their second 11-game losing streak of the season. “That’s just the way I’ve learned to approach it. If you get caught up in it, then that’s when it deteriorates — not deteriorates your mind, but gets you to overthinking about stuff, and I ain’t doing that.”
Covington prefers not to think of the possibilities at all. He said he wasn’t going to address these rumors with President Gersson Rosas because the last time he tried doing that with the 76ers, it offered no help.
“I did that before [in Philadelphia] and I was told things one way,” Covington said. “But overall I’m just focused on me going out and playing each and every night. I don’t get caught up in that.”
ESPN also reported Houston is among the teams interested in Covington, and it remains to be seen if Covington is a piece the Wolves would move in an effort to acquire Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell, a top Wolves priority in last summer’s free agency.
Covington said in his experience, there is validity to some trade rumors. He is just trying to ignore all the noise, legitimate or not.
“It’s coming from somewhere,” Covington said. “Somebody said something or somebody is trying to create a buzz. You never really know the truth until something actually happens. A lot of stuff is just speculation a majority of the time.”
He added that he is prepared to “expect the unexpected.” This is life in the NBA for somebody whose value exceeds that of his contract. Covington still has two years and about $25 million remaining on his contract after this season, a solid number for a player who is among the best defenders in the league and has hit three-pointers at a 36% clip for his career.
There are concerns about Covington’s health in light of the right knee bone bruise that ultimately needed surgery to heal last season. But Covington has played in all but one game this season, and he missed that game following a death in the family.
Coach Ryan Saunders said last month he wasn’t concerned about how Covington would handle trade speculation, and he said the Wolves are taking it all in stride, while acknowledging it can have an effect on people.
“Everybody’s human, but I will say I know this locker room is professional,” Saunders said. “There’s obviously things that weigh on people, but it’s our job as professional basketball players, coaches or executives and training staff to compartmentalize the best we can.”
Covington said he has no problem with that.
“I’ve been through this before,” he said. “I’ve learned to just go out there and try and take small things from the game and try to find ways to do the right thing. … If you get caught up in it and let stuff overwhelm you, it can be a rough finish.”