My phone was ringing and ringing, but I had no idea. It was on silent. I was in the middle of an interview, cameras on me. I couldn’t make this up: I was talking about Chicago. The city, the basketball scene I came up in. How that city raised me, made me the man I am today.
A few minutes later I peeked at it and saw the notifications — missed calls, text messages, voicemails, all from my agent BJ. I called back and he told me: I was about to be traded to the New York Knicks.
“It might happen,” he said. That means it’s going to happen. He wanted me to be mentally prepared.
I had a feeling for a few weeks that a trade could be in the works. But I didn’t know for sure. There were rumors going around that I could be moved soon, and of course you hear that stuff and try to ignore it. That’s impossible. But I never let it really sink in.
The first thing I thought about was my son PJ. It’s hard enough to find time to see him during the season even when I’m in Chicago. Now I’ll be in New York, hours away. It’s a lot of miles. I know this is part of being an NBA player, though. We’ll find a way to make it work. I owe him that.
I’m so excited to move to New York City. I’ve never spent much time there—the most time I’ve been there is two or three days, and never really during the summer. Now it’ll be a solid seven months. Chicago’s a big city, but it’s kinda chill, not fast-paced like New York. Joakim Noah, who’s like a brother to me, is from Manhattan, and he’s told me a lot about it. I’m going to soak up as much knowledge about the city as I possibly can.
Chicago made me who I am. It’s tatted on my wrist. I was raised in my grandmother’s house on South Paulina Street in Englewood. Being drafted by the Bulls, becoming an All-Star and an MVP on the Bulls, helping the team make the playoffs — all of that was a dream come true. I’ll never forget it. I’ve carried Chicago with me everywhere I’ve gone, from around the country to all over the world. I always will.
I understand that this is a business and the Bulls have their plans, their own ideas with what direction they want to go with the team, but I’m gonna use this as motivation. I was with them for eight years and they let me go. There’s no hard feelings, no grudges. They’re trying to do what’s best for the team. I totally understand that. But I don’t think I would be wrong for using this as motivation.
After I hung up the phone with BJ, all sorts of emotions flowed through me. I was shocked. Anxious. I knew there was so much to handle right away, and it was all hitting me at once. Things I need to take care of — business, endorsements, where I’m going to live, who’s coming with me. I want to focus on nothing but basketball. I just want to let my game speak for itself. My voice will always be loudest on the court.
I’m 27 years old — there’s still so much ahead for me. I really believe this trade is a blessing. After all of the emotions passed through me, I started to realize how pumped I am for what comes next. I’m going to be playing alongside Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. This is an amazing opportunity. I can’t wait.