The NBA trade rumor season is upon us once again. So prepare yourselves for rehashed rumors, made up trade ideas, and fake rumors that spread like a forest fire through the bowels of the internets.
I don't mean to come off overly patronizing here, but it seems like every year we have to re-learn some basic truths about the NBA trade rumor mill. Many (perhaps most) of you already get much of this, but I know that there are some folks that need a refresher. So as a veteran of covering the rumor mill for over a decade, I thought I'd offer up some tips and truths to cling to when things get a little out of hand.
1. Everyone is lying about something. Everyone in this game has an agenda of some sort. GMs want to position themselves for the best possible leverage. Agents want to put their clients in the best possible situations. Owners want to drum up positive PR. Sportswriters want to sell copy (or clicks or whatever it is we sell these days). Rumors that have any merit at all start from someone leaking information to someone else for a purpose. Most of the time it only tells a portion of the story that benefits the leaker. Really good NBA writers will follow up with additional inquiries to dig to the bottom of an issue and will try to present the facts as rationally as possible. But at some point they are only as good as their sources and if they are being lied to, that's not necessarily on them.
2. Not all media are created equal. As I mentioned in the point above, good writers will vet their sources and develop long term working relationships with people in "the know." They will sit on information if it isn't corroborated and they will hold off breaking something until getting the other side of the story. Not-so-good writers will break any juicy tid-bit that drops into their laps via the ballboy's math tutor. Then there are the spam-level "news" sites that simply look to generate clicks by re-posting anything they read, no matter how far fetched. There's a lot of grey area between "good" and "bad" media and frankly I'm not always sure where blogs land on that spectrum, but we do our best to be responsible on this blog.
3. Follow the trail. So many times I've had someone ask me "is this XYZ rumor legit?" It is sometimes easy to find out. Yesterday I was asked about a Dwight Howard rumor. I followed the link to one of those spam-news-generator sites, which linked to another such site. Skimming down that article it was clear that the original "story" was generated by a poster on the RealGM forums. Bottom line: It was someone's idea not a rumor. So no, not legit.
4. Volume does not equal legitimacy. Even sites like ESPN have been known to take a single rumor and repeat it over and over again to the point where it sounds like it is imminent. Other sites will pick up on it and the echo-chamber effect amplifies the rumor a hundred-fold. Meanwhile, in reality, it was something that was loosely discussed several weeks back but since dropped and dismissed by both sides.
5. On the other hand, smoke sometimes means fire. If a rumor has legs, it will come at you from several different angles and get more nuanced as it goes. It will also make logical sense. Think back to the Rondo rumors. Many saw his exit coming long before it ever happened and the rumors persisted throughout the process.
6. Listen to everything, believe nothing. I get it, it is fun to find a rumor on a message board and imagine that you've got inside information that the rest of the world hasn't been made privy to yet. Hearing about something first can be a thrill. But don't get roped in. I always assume it is a false report and seek out some kind confirmation before trusting a random source. I been emailed with rumors that sounded legit and I had no reason to question but I didn't run with them because I didn't have collaboration and frankly I'm not in the business of being an insider (it is a thankless, messy, mostly fruitless job).
7. Have fun with it. Remember that this is all in good fun. Debates are fun and rumors are great fodder for debating. Just be nice to the people you are debating with. Don't shoot the messenger. Don't be "that guy" that assumes everyone else is an idiot and can't believe everyone doesn't see things their way. Nobody likes a smarmy or combative person. We all have blind spots and in the right environment we can all learn from each other which makes the experience richer. That's the goal here. Remember my golden rule: respect each other.
So think things through and enjoy rumor season responsibly. Cheers.