As much as players may say they try to block out the rumors and noise leading up to the trade deadline, it can't help but creep into their minds.
“We know we are the worst team in the NBA. So if they change players, it's normal.”
That especially applies to a young team like the Timberwolves, who features players who haven't gone through a lot of trade deadlines.
To hear Karl-Anthony Towns talk about it, there was a sense of unease in the locker room, and perhaps that contributed to the Wolves' 128-108 loss to Dallas on Wednesday.
"We all know that we may not all be together again," Towns said. "It's always tough every trade deadline, especially here. It's almost like you're guaranteed to not have some stability, or to have change. So you just never know. You never know who the odd man out is."
In the case of last year, it was almost everybody who was the odd man out as President Gersson Rosas dealt all but three regular rostered players at the deadline. Although such a drastic change is highly unlikely this time, there are always moves big or small, that can affect any player.
Or as Juancho Hernangomez bluntly put it: "We know we are the worst team in the NBA. So if they change players, it's normal."
The Wolves showed why they are 10-34 when in the second half Dallas took control of a game the Wolves led by 13 in the first quarter.
After one of the Wolves' best defensive players, Josh Okogie, was a late scratch because of potential COVID exposure, rookie Jaden McDaniels assumed the task of guarding Luka Doncic. McDaniels, who multiple teams have asked about in trade scenarios, more than held his own. Doncic had just 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting. However, the Wolves were powerless to stop Kristaps Porzingis, who had 29 points and nine rebounds. Towns had 22 for the Wolves while Anthony Edwards shot 9 of 22 for 29 points, which he compiled in the first and fourth quarters while going scoreless in the second and third.
After the Wolves opened the third quarter on a 7-0 run, the Mavericks scored 11 straight. After a McDaniels three, Dallas scored another eight straight thanks to contributions off the bench from Tim Hardaway Jr. (21 points) and Jalen Brunson (16). The Mavericks were ahead 75-65, and Wolves coach Chris Finch noticed a change in his team.
"We got our heads down when we got down 10," Finch said. "We have to be more resilient. The games that we won coming out of the break here, we were down in those games too. We have to find a way to battle back better."
And battle better on the glass, where the Mavericks had 22 second-chance points.
"A lot of them we were just watching,'" guard Ricky Rubio said. "It's not that it really worked for them or that they did something. It was more on our end to really go out there and put our bodies out there."
Finch also said the ball movement was a little "sticky" and static for his liking.
Taking all this in courtside was the Wolves front office, who took a break from their trade Zoom war room to take their usual seats. Some of the players who were sitting across from them could be gone Thursday.
Rubio has been around the block a few times handling trade deadlines. Most others don't have the luxury of that experience.
"I've been traded I think 20 times and only for real like two or three," Rubio said.
Some stars in the league may seek consultation on personnel moves, but Towns has said his attitude is to leave that to the front office.
"I like to let everyone do their jobs," Towns said. "I worry about doing my job on the court, and I let them do their job on the back end. … We're all just waiting."
The waiting can be the hardest part.