Don’t get the NBA hate

5 07 2010

I’ve embraced NBA free agency as a potential seismic shift in the NBA landscape. Others write it off as an over-hyped annoyance. What separates those two trains of thought is an acceptance of journalism as it stands today.

I accepted beforehand that free agent speculation would be rampant. How could it not be? Think of the major players reporting on the League — every newspaper in an NBA city, ESPN.com and its five “local” micro-sites (Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Boston), NBA.com, Yahoo! Sports, CBS.com and on and on.

Unlike a lot of naysayers, I don’t believe the journalists and reporters who have been documenting NBA free agent news are pulling their rumors out of the thin, blue air. Most have legitimate sources who they feel are giving them reasonable, story-worthy rumors. So what are these reporters supposed to do? Sit on that intel? It’s their job to report what they hear, and you can be sure the pressure is on from their editors to report what they know. Not doing so is cheating their readers.

So what if every rumor doesn’t work out? It’s unreasonable to expect everything to work out as reporters write it. I don’t want to give the impression that I think journalistic standards should lower — they shouldn’t. But if we live in an age of Twitter and 25-minute Free Agent Rumor roundtables on ESPN and the ability for journalists to easily communicate with their sources through something as simple as a text message, then we as sports fans should ready ourselves for the plethora of rumors that come from this being summer being potentially a game-changer for the League’s elite teams.

*****

I’m feeling snarky, so I’ll throw down a few more lines about the NBA hate. One of the agreed-to contracts people seem most bent out of shape about is Darko’s 4-year/$20 million deal. While not actually a bad player, Darko is associated with being a draft bust since he was selected ahead of Carmelo Anthony in the 2003 Draft. Now his contract agreement can be presented in two ways.

Scenario 1: How would you feel if your favorite team signed Darko to $20 million?

Scenario 2: How would you feel if your favorite team signed a 25-year-old 7-footer who’s a proven good post defender/very good shot blocker to a deal that averages $5 million per over four years — or nearly $1 million less than the average salary of an NBA player during the 2009-10 season?

Darko’s deal doesn’t look so unreasonable in the second scenario. But for people who don’t actually watch NBA games, it’s easy to put Darko on blast without considering that once Al Jefferson is traded, Minnesota will have a pretty good defensive front court with Darko, Kevin Love and Corey Brewer.

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