Meyers Leonard

The murky world of the sports insider has been a hot topic in recent months, mostly thanks to Adam Schefter and his many transgressions. However, we’ve seen multiple examples of sports reporters carrying water for athletes or coaches recently, so the sports world has become a bit attuned to knowing it when they see it. And for a short while, it appeared to many that they were seeing it from The Athletic’s NBA insider Shams Charania and the way he reported that Meyers Leonard was getting a chance to work out for the Los Angeles Lakers.

“Free agent center Meyers Leonard will work out for the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday,” said Shams in his initial breaking news tweet at 5:23 p.m. ET.

At 5:47 p.m. ET, Charania added some context to the news.

Leonard last played in Jan. 2021, at which point he had season-ending shoulder and ankle surgeries. Based on issues that stem from the ankle surgery, Leonard has been sidelined for almost two years, and recently was fully cleared to work out for NBA teams,” tweeted Shams. “The Lakers have searched for potential shooting and size, with Leonard and DeMarcus Cousins set for free-agent workouts Friday. At 7-foot-1, Leonard has shot 42.9 percent from 3-point range over his four last seasons.”

While all of that is true, that does leave out rather important details when it comes to why Leonard hasn’t been in the NBA since January 2021. In March of that year, Leonard uttered an anti-Jewish slur during a Twitch stream in an incident that quickly went viral. That led to the Miami Heat announcing he would be “away from the team indefinitely.” He later apologized and claimed he didn’t know what the phrase meant, but the entire incident certainly made him persona non grata in NBA circles until now.

At this point, a lot of NBA folks assumed that Shams was done in his explanation, and understandably so. It certainly appeared that he was not planning on mentioning the controversy and that led some to think that was the cost of access to the breaking news.

“I think some context is missing here Shams,” said ESPN700 host Porter Larsen.

“…this isn’t why he hasn’t been playing for two years. This is such gross reporting. And trash behavior from the Lakers to bring him in at all,” said FiveThirtyEight writer Ben Dowsett.

“Hahaha, I’m pretty sure shoulder and ankle surgeries have nothing to do with why Meyers Leonard hasn’t played in the NBA since Jan 2021, but I guess you can’t bite the hand that feeds you,” wrote SportsRadio 610’s Adam Spolane.

At 6:09 p.m. ET, perhaps spurred on by the intense backlash of the initial breaking news, or perhaps not, Shams finally provided the missing context, though that also came draped in a lot of positive spin.

“Leonard was suspended in March 2021 after using antisemitic slur on a live stream. He later apologized and has spent time with Jewish leaders and immersed himself in the Jewish community over the last couple years — which the league has been aware of,” said Shams.

The phrase “spent time with Jewish leaders and immersed himself in the Jewish community” is the kind of non-committal collection of words that sounds like something without actually telling you anything. We can’t say for sure but it sure sounds like something that an agent or player rep would pass along.

It doesn’t appear that too many people are convinced Charania was always going to provide that last bit of context, and understandably so. They’ve gotten used to seeing how the game is played and how, so often, insiders can sometimes be a little too inside for their own good.

[Shams Charania]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.