There’s a lot of buzz as free agency begins about this trade or that signing or this or that rumor. There’s also a lot of criticism of jumping-the-gun-scoops foiled by second-thinking, changes of heart, misinformation, and, well, just flat-out wrong reports. So here at the Hype, we’re going to help y’all wade through it. Writers, by their nature, are good with words. Readers, by nature, read too fast and, as a result, often miss certain nuances. Also, for those of you with too little time, sometimes scanning the headlines is the way you roll. One problem with that is the editor often writes the headline, not the author; in either case, the by-line can be confusing. Seeing as how we’re a Hornets blog, let’s use some New Orleans examples.
July 2, 2010, headline on page D-1 of the Times Picayune: “I Want to Win Now.” Subtitle: “Once again, Chris Paul reiterates his desire for the Hornets to step up their efforts to build a contender in New Orleans.” Implication: improve now or trade me. In fact, the connecting headline on D-4 is: “Trade rumors continue to swirl.” Lesson #1: context. When did CP3 say these things? What were the questions? In this instance, the key comment comes on the 3rd paragraph of column 2 on D-4, “I love everything about the city, but at the end of the day, I want to win. I don’t want to win years from now. I want to win many, many championships here, but I just want to make sure we are committed to winning.” Funny how the headline “CP3 Wants to Win Many Championships in Nola” wasn’t used. Simple. That’s not the story this reporter/editor/news outlet wanted to sell you. The problem by crafting a story is that it gets carried to other outlets, and like a game of telephone, suddenly, it’s all about CP wanting to get traded, which, if you didn’t know better, you would never know is nothing remotely connected to reality.
Readers also need to beware ellipses and brackets. This allows an author to omit or ostensibly change words to provide clarification. It can also allow the author to push their own agenda by selectively picking and choosing what to include in their article. Check out how the above quote from CP3 could have been printed: “At the end of the day, I want to win…are [we] committed to winning”? Now, I stretched the bracket a bit, but this makes a point. Is he worried that New Orleans is committed to winning, or wanting to win many championships here?” Depends upon how you quote him. Also, watch out for really short quotes. Movie ads like to do this. “Fantastic” says so and so. Well, what if the full quote was “fantastic special effects, but horrible acting, and no plot whatsoever.” Did that critic really mean the movie was “fantastic”? Hardly.
Consider this video from WDSU’s @FletcherMackel over at http://www.wdsu.com/video/24122619/index.html. Is the first question asked live or dubbed back in? It’s unclear. As for many of Chris’ other answers, you can’t hear the questions, or they are edited out. By the way, the part about CP3 welcoming any of the League’s talented free agents to New Orleans with open arms? That quote didn’t make the Times Pic (although several of these other quotes did, so its reporters were obviously there at the same time as Mackel). Instead, the Times Pic ends with a quote from CP’s dad about his son just wanting to win. My point is that if you don’t know the question, how can you contextualize the answer? Theoretically, if Mackel could have asked CP3 the following question: “If a small asteroid hit New Orleans and totally wiped it out, would you demand a trade?” CP laughs, and answers: “Yes.” Next day’s headline: “CP considers demanding trade.” A lie? No. Misleading? Yes. The context wasn’t made clear. And no media-folks, if the asteroid question is buried in the second last sentence of the article, on the back page, you don’t win any kudos. You’re still trying to fool people and your integrity is suspect.
Now, back to the Times Pic, and considering all the above, the second Hornets’ article on D-1 is entitled: “Paul, N.O. still not on same page is alarming.” Wow. So Chris wants to win. Stop the presses. But did I miss the article where the Hornets’ management said they didn’t want to win? (Actually the other article on D-1 cited Shinn’s statement that Nola is “committed to building a winner around Paul, but, of course, as continued on page D-4.) Listen folks, there is this thing called the salary cap, all right? New Orleans, like many talented teams, cannot bring in a max contract player, or even close (they can’t offer more than the mid-level exception, about $5.6 mil). But this doesn’t mean that the brass aren’t looking to see who is available once the big names ink, or that they’re not thinking of trades to be made. But, listen, these trades aren’t going to happen until the free agency mess happens, okay? And of all people, Bower is not about to give away what’s in his head. Any way, back to the article. This piece of shit was written by notorious curmudgeon John Deshazier, and opens by saying that Paul’s comments reiterated his claim last week that he was “open to a trade” if the Hornets couldn’t move into the ranks of the NBA’s elite teams. Where to start? Nothing in any article or video that I have seen from CP’s golf tournament (where these interviews were conducted) referenced an interest in being traded. To the contrary, CP said he wanted to win here. Fact check, Deshazier. I guess this is a good time to start discussing language use. Line return.
Chris Paul “open to being traded.” Open to? Does he “want” to be traded? Is he “looking” to be traded? “Demanding” a trade? No, no, and no. Look, any contextual analysis will tell you that Chris was asked if Nola was not a winner, and wasn’t looking like a winner in the next two years, would he be open to a trade? His answer: yes. So every reporter blows up the things with the boxes and wires and electricity connected and puts in the binary codes to spit to the world: “CP Open to Trade.” All of this ignores the fact that this quote was prefaced by Chris saying: “My first choice is to be in New Orleans.” Why wasn’t that the headline? No. Instead, for days, ESPN headlines were in the sidebar, speaking of a “frustrated” CP3. But again, has he asked for out, or just asked for help? Big difference. And would even Nola fans want him to be content with losing or missing the Playoffs? Of course not. But instead of being cast as one of the Paul Pierce or Kobe Bryant types, who will build their teams into champions, the implication is that he’ll be a Tracy McGrady or Vince Carter type, and just pout and “want to win” while not really meaning it. Why? Because media types get the subliminal jealousy most people have of those that are more successful than them, and are always looking to tear others down. But the media only gets half the rib for that; too many readers live for it. The worst is when anyone with a pen who falls into the latter category claims to be someone in the former. Case in point.
Some sites, like Fanhouse, have gone so far as to report: “Chris Paul Trade Rumors Could Be the Next Talk of the Town.” Excepts: “team on the decline…bleak organizational outlook…'[Paul’s frustration] is very real, very real’ said a source close to Paul.” Okay. First of all, they put their own spin on his “frustration” by prefacing the quote by saying the team is headed downhill with no future. First of all, it’s called health. People forget how many games our starters have missed over the last two years. No NBA team with CP3-West-Peja healthy will miss the playoffs. Take that to the bank. Second, note how “Paul’s frustration” is in brackets. Was “frustration” the thing being discussed explicitly, or was it inferred by the author? Was it even Paul’s “frustration” or someone in his crew talking about him? We’ll never know. Third, “said a source close to Paul.” Fuck the media and their sources, man. Seriously. I get it, kind of. But what does that mean? His girlfriend, his trainer, his chef, the team waterboy? It could be any of them. Just watch how such “sources” are described; it’s telling. No doubt, some are legit, but, really, take it with a grain of salt. Then, continuing the article’s theme of gloom and doom, the piece continues: “and his general Manager (Jeff Bower) is now reportedly hoping for an exit of his own to New Jersey.” This assertion is linked to a Nola.com article. Go ahead and read it. The exact phrase from the cited piece is: “Bower, who is under consideration for the New Jersey Nets’ general manager job, was out of town Friday.” That’s it. How the hell did Fanhouse get to Bower is “hoping for an exit” from that? Because it has a pre-written story, an agenda, that it wants to sell. Moreover, look closely at the next words: “an exit of his own.” The final words again imply that Bower’s escape is in addition to CP hoping for an escape. Ridiculous, and unsubstantiated.
Listen, these CP3 rumors started because teams told reporters they were calling Bower about Chris Paul trades. Really? Duh. BREAKING NEWS: every team wants CP3. Give me a break. And then, Bower, always playing his cards close to his vest, simply said he was “having a dialogue with other teams concerning ‘all of our players.'” Wow. So your job, as GM, is to make and take these calls, and you in fact did you job, which probably involved telling teams like New Jersey that if they gave up Brook Lopez, Devin Harris, Courtney Lee, and four first round picks, you’d think about it, and then (unsurprisingly) not getting a call back. Of course Bower makes and takes those calls. That’s his job. So why are surprised that he “had a dialogue” with other teams about Chris Paul? What does having a dialogue mean? It could have meant, “hey, we’ll swap Harris for Paul.” [Pause] “Fuck off.” [Click] You know?
So, please, people, watch the words. Anything like “might”, “probably”, “considering”, “talked about”, mean just about nothing. Nothing. Writers hide behind these words. Writers craft their own stories around these words, rather than writing about the story there is. But in today’s quasi-celebrity world where just being yourself, just having your job, isn’t good enough; no, everyone needs to be famous. Like certain owners. Like certain refs. People that can’t just keep the spotlight where it belongs: on the game and the players that bring it to us. The media, more and more, is guilty of this. They are no longer content to report the news. They want to be the news. They want to see their name under the big, juicy headline: “Chris Paul Demands Trade.” But Chris isn’t saying that, and they can’t stretch things that far. Which is why the national media frenzied over this story last week before free agency begin and, now, only the Nola media is running with the new quotes. They were just bored, so they invented a story. Readers, beware. They’re trying to sell you on their story. Their answers.
Find your own truths.