NBA trade deadline in a new setting, but it’s old hat for Flip Saunders

Flip Saunders (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

Flip Saunders (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

ESPN2 will telecast a live NBA Trade Deadline Special on Thursday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN).

Anchor Kevin Connors (@kevconnorsespn) will host with analysts Flip Saunders (@Flip_Saunders), Tom Penn (@1tompenn) and ESPN NBA Insider Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard). (See the Twitter feed to the right for updates from ESPN NBA experts as Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline approaches.)

Front Row caught up with Saunders, who joined ESPN in October after 16 seasons as an NBA head coach, to discuss, among other topics, this season’s trade market, his deadline day memories and his transition from coach to analyst.

What has the transition from NBA head coach to ESPN NBA analyst been like?
It’s been nothing but a positive experience. Whether it’s been other analysts, anchors or production colleagues, everyone has been helpful. As a coach, you’re always focused on your team, but you don’t look at the league as a whole. Now I get to study the entire league. It’s fun, but it’s a lot of work. It’s given me such a great appreciation for the work and preparation our on-air talent puts in.

As an NBA head coach, what is the trade deadline day like? Any deadline day memories?
Your trade deadline experience depends on the type of team you have. Contender or not, every team is at least talking about doing something at the deadline. If you’re coaching a title contender, you’re looking to make a deal that will get you over the top. When I was coaching the Timberwolves, Stephon Marbury wanted to be traded [during 1998-99 season]. I knew it was the wrong decision, but we traded him to the [then-New Jersey] Nets at the deadline. We got good players back in that trade, but we didn’t have the same dynamic we had with Stephon and Kevin Garnett together.

This will be your first trade deadline special on ESPN. What do you expect?
I know it’s going to be a fast-paced day. News will still be coming in as we’re going live on the air. As an analyst, my job is to be prepared to discuss the trades, teams and players involved. I’m sure it’s going to be exciting and lots of fun. It’s also a day when the work of people who aren’t on camera really shines.

What do you think everyone will be talking about after the trade deadline passes?
I don’t think there will be a trading frenzy on Thursday. The [Los Angeles] Lakers are not trading Dwight Howard. The [Atlanta] Hawks could move Josh Smith. I just don’t think there’s a team out there in the position to win a championship that will be bringing in any major difference makers.