Another NBA summer brought another long trade saga. On Wednesday, after Damian Lillard was sent to the Milwaukee Bucks over the Miami Heat, the executive producer of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz attacked outlets like ESPN and The Ringer for colluding to keep Lillard out of south Florida.
“It worked,” executive producer Mike Ryan Ruiz said. “Tainting the pool and saying that Miami’s offer is unfair and saying…asinine things about Tyler Herro and Miami’s assets, it worked.”
“Working the Worldwide Leader, it worked for (Portland general manager Joe) Cronin.”
In Ryan’s telling, most major basketball media outlets conspired “on behalf of not Miami.” That is, so long as Lillard did not end up in his preferred destination with a history of trading for superstars, the NBA world would be happy.
While many sports fans will laugh at Ryan and the full Le Batard Show crew for being poor losers in the Lillard sweepstakes, Ryan has a point.
This is indeed how NBA reporting is done these days. Insiders blatantly toe the line of their key source within a situation and share mostly just the information that comes from that source or benefits that source.
Most recently, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN last week said Portland was in no hurry to do a deal despite numerous reports that a trade was close. Days later, fellow ESPN insider Brian Windhorst reported that Miami did not see trading for Lillard as its sole focus. Two angles, two separate reports, telling two somewhat-different stories.
In the last couple days, Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape reported Toronto was the frontrunner for Lillard. That led many to assume Lillard would be a Raptor in no time.
All the while, NBA commissioner Adam Silver consistently spoke out against Lillard’s approach in press conferences and released a memo to NBA teams warning against trade requests and similar threats.
The Lillard saga this summer was seemingly an inflection point in the NBA. Some combination of Cronin, Silver and NBA insiders took a much harder line against NBA star player drama than ever before. And it resulted in a superstar (finally) not going where he wanted.
Now, whether it was quite as conspiratorial as Ryan alleged is a different conversation. There’s no clear Ringer connection, as nobody at the Spotify-owned company really breaks news. (Founder Bill Simmons is certainly notable in NBA circles, but not as an insider.) And non-ESPN NBA insiders were clear from the jump that while the Heat were the most aggressive bidder, Toronto and even Chicago lurked as suitors too.
No matter where the origin or purpose of these conflicting reports, the NBA will be picking up their pieces the rest of the season.