By Dave Zarum, SPORTSNET MAGAZINE
On February 3rd, 2006 the Toronto Raptors traded Jalen Rose, a future first-rounder, and cash to the New York Knicks in exchange for forward Antonio Davis — on the same day the Knicks were in Toronto. It remains one of the stranger — and more awkward — moments for a player and franchise with plenty of experience in both.
If you don’t remember the 2005-06 Toronto Raptors season, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. The Raptors were in the midst of a brutal season in which the club got off to a red-hot 1-15 start and eventually finished 27-55 (this was also the season that Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant dropped 81 on them, just a few weeks before Rose was dealt). With a roster of young, developing talent (including Chris Bosh, Charlie Villanueva, Joey Graham, Rafael Aroujo, and Jose Calderon-God, that team sucked) and an attempted rebuild in the works, Jalen Rose — and the $32 million remaining on his contract — was the subject of trade rumours from the season’s opening tip.
“Most of the time, before you get traded there are rumblings,” says Rose. “So I wasn’t totally surprised that I was going to get traded-I anticipated it happening. And I wasn’t surprised that I got traded to the Knicks, either. But I was surprised that it happened that day.”
Rose had heard the rumours from both the media and Raptors management, so with an organization that has never shied from adding salary like the Knicks next on the Raps schedule, he could sense a move was on the horizon.
“They were in town to play us, and the night before I had heard serious rumblings that it was going to happen,” he says. “It’s strange. You go to sleep not knowing which team you’ll be with tomorrow.”
When he awoke the following morning, Rose received a phone call from interim GM Wayne Embry (Rob Babcock had been fired a week earlier, and Bryan Colangelo was hired in late Februrary).
“‘Raptors management called and told me ‘Don’t worry about coming to shootaround, we think the trade is going to be finalized today with the Knicks'”, Rose recalls. He hadn’t had contact with New York yet, and out of curiosity pulled up their schedule on his laptop to figure out what might be next for him, “but I was still quote-unquote property of the Raptors,” Rose explains. “So in my head, I’m thinking ‘there’s still a game tonight'”.
Hours later, just before that night’s game, the trade was finalized. Rose made his way to the Air Canada Centre, as he had been doing for nearly three seasons, but wasn’t allowed to enter the Raptors locker room.
“It was weird not to go in there,” he says. “I never even got a chance to go to my locker again. Imagine you’re practicing one day, you’ve got your gear in there-your shoes, personal items, some pictures-and the next day I’m not allowed to get any of it.”
So Rose, still in his street clothes, took his place on the visiting Knicks bench, where he watched the Raptors beat New York 129-103. “I went straight to the bench and flew back to New York with the Knicks right after the game! That was classic, man. Classic ‘test your professionalism’ material.”