The back channel conversations could have still happened. It would be easy to imagine him saying we can talk after I test the NBA waters, and/or us telling him if you come back, we have a position for you.Hmm, either he's telling the truth, or isn't.
Wouldn't blame him either way.
The driest longest stretch between resupply on the whole Continental Divide Trail is also in New Mexico. Just water would have been spectacular.The food and scenery in New Mexico are spectacular, too. I used to live there.