I’m sorry, did I miss something?
A screenshot of ESPN's front page last November
I thought Chris Paul hated Byron Scott. I thought this had been established. Like, mainstream established. I mean, I saw it on ESPN. They’ve been mentioning something about it every third day since last November. But then I get up and here are all these articles saying he’s terribly upset over Scott’s firing.
WHAT IS GOING ON HERE, PEOPLE?
Previously, on Lifestyles of a Small Market Team With a Top 5 Star Who Everyone Thinks Is Being Wasted In a Small City and Oh My God It’s So Horrible How Dare They Want a Star? Who Do They Think They Are, New York? … Bill Simmons went to a Clippers game in November 2008 and wrote his usual sports humor column. I’ll excerpt the relevant parts:
“The way players walk toward the bench after a timeout. (Goes one of three ways: “I’m interested to hear coach’s thoughts,” “I look forward to sitting down” or “Great, I get to listen to this bonehead again.”) How fast someone jumps up when the coach calls for them as a sub. (If they jump up fast, that means they’re totally in the game; if they jump up slow, that means they were either daydreaming about that night’s sexual conquest or imagining he’s punching the coach in the face.) Whether they listen or don’t listen in the huddle. The body language of the coach himself. And the telltale sign … what happens when a top player gets called over by coach when someone is shooting free throws.This can unfold one of three ways:
A. Player runs over respectfully and seems genuinely interested in the coach’s wisdom. Watch what happens when Popovich calls over Duncan or Parker in a Spurs game. Total respect. They look like someone jogging over to a police officer.
B. Player jogs over, doesn’t seem totally interested, but doesn’t want to seem like a jerk either. This usually sums up 75 percent of the league.
C. Player does a double-take and his head kicks back briefly (like he’s thinking, “Really, I have to talk to this guy again???”). He saunters over disdainfully. When he reaches the coach, he makes eye contact for the first two seconds, then starts subconsciously pulling away (first with his eyes, then with his body leaning back toward the coach), and at about the six-second mark, he just starts walking back toward the court whether the coach is finished talking or not. Everything about the exchange says, “I’ve just had it with this freaking guy.”
I mistakenly believed that Chris Paul and Scott had an “A” relationship but in the second half of Monday’s game, it was revealed that they were a “C.” At least right now. Translation: I am no longer sold on the 2009 Hornets.”
Basically, Simmons thought the Hornets as a team were in trouble– which turned out to be true– way back in the beginning of last season. I am back and forth on this. He went to one game, didn’t talk to any of the players, and just looked at body language. As a bench-watcher myself, I get that. I sit close enough to the Hornets bench (I’m not saying I sit low down, but I do sit on that end of the arena) that I can see who interacts with who, but unlike Bill Simmons, I see them for 41+ games a year. What he neglected to mention in his column, for instance, is that the game in question was at Staples Center back when the Clippers were abysmal and the Hornets were expected to contend in the Western Conference. The Hornets ended up winning that game, but they were down by around ten points for a big chunk of it, and understandably pissed about it. Simmons skipped over that part. That Byron Scott, by the end, had maybe lost David West and some of the Hornets is true. But it seems he never lost Chris Paul.
For his part, when this Simmons thing took off like wildfire through the articles and blogs, Chris Paul even came right out and told the media it wasn’t true. “I would think me and coach might have one of the best relationships out of the entire NBA. I guess people got to have something to talk about. Maybe he should come to a game. Let’s talk. If I had a problem with coach, I’d say it. I guess he comes to one game, and he can figure it out.” But of course, no mainstream media outlets ran with that story. It stayed buried halfway back in the sports pages of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Let’s be crystal clear here. My issue is not that Bill Simmons wrote an opinion column. My issue is that every mainstream media outlet and their mother, brother, and sister ran with it. “Sources say Chris Paul and Byron Scott are not seeing eye to eye.” “Reports are that Byron Scott has lost Chris Paul.” “Amid reports of conflict between Byron Scott and his star player…” Etc. It was in the Daily Dime. It was in the NBA Rumors section of every site. It was thrown in as a little parenthetical aside in articles about the Hornets losing games. My problem with it then is still my problem with it today: Bill Simmons is a guy who writes a humorous internet column. What he is not … is a source.
It’s also the selectivity of the headlines and news items that pisses me off. Simmons’ column was about the Hornets team chemistry as a whole, and it asked the question of whether they were tuning out their coach. I didn’t think it was true at the time– that was very early in the season, and the team would make a few more good runs before the season ended in rescinded trade drama, injuries, and a devastating playoff loss. Plus for every instance of the Hornets not looking like they liked each other, I had 41+ instances, personally witnessed, that told me they did. But most of the reports that pushed along Simmons’ observation and misrepresented it as fact, like a bizarre game of media telephone, weren’t worried about the rest of the Hornets team chemistry. Instead they saw the words “CHRIS PAUL” and “BYRON SCOTT’ and salivated, like wolves lunging for scraps of meat.
And here’s, really, why I’m such a big supporter of fan blogs, social media, and beat writers. In this age of the internet, when firsthand information about every team, observed by people who actually watch the games, is right here in my blogroll and my twitter feed, why should I trust these national aggregators of “news” and “rumors”, citing their “sources”, to tell me what I should believe? I haven’t included ESPN, with the exception of True Hoop, as a daily read since spring of 2008. To me, they’re a dinosaur. Don’t even get me started on the Associated Press, which will quote a blog or a Twitter account and not even put a link to it. Me, I want a trail of hypertext leading back to my source. Scratch that, I don’t just want it– I demand it.
And so today you will see the same mainstream media giants, whose team preview for the 2009-10 Hornets probably included a snippet about “if the Hornets can overcome the rumblings of friction between Chris Paul and Byron Scott,” pound out columns. How could the Hornets do this to Chris Paul, fire the coach who was his best friend and father figure without telling him? How can a franchise be so small-time and clueless? Not a single one of them will mention how wrong they were about any of this.
Dolla dolla bills, y’all.