A couple centuries ago, the term “silly season” was coined to describe the summer months in various European countries. With congresses out of session, there was less for the news media to report on but the same number of pages to fill, and thus a flood of silly stories was unleashed.
In modern times, soccer fans have adopted the term to describe a similar phenomenon in soccer news. The transfer of soccer players is restricted to two windows, and the biggest and most important of these runs from June through August. During these months you are liable to see any and every player connected with any and every team.
This happens for a couple of reasons. Soccer fans, to put it impolitely, are stupid. There is a whole phenomenon of ITK—In the Known—twitter accounts that are anonymous but purport to be agents or former club officials. Despite no real names attached to the accounts nor any proof offered of their legitimacy, soccer fans continue to believe them. Europe, and England especially, is also home to a much “richer” tabloid culture than the United States, and thus has a plethora of quasi-legitimate publications to push dubious stories. Finally there is just the sheer enormity of numerous publications and reporters across dozens of countries reporting on news in different languages.
Thankfully, basketball reporting is not quite this crazy. There are no anonymous basketball rumor twitter accounts that have any sort of following or power. America has very few tabloids to begin with, and the ones that it does have mostly don’t bother reporting on basketball transactions. Things are much simpler with one league with thirty teams based in a single country (the Raptors excepted, of course). There just isn’t as much room for bad reports.
But the NBA does have a silly season, and we’re smack dab in the middle of it right now. Basketball’s silly season begins after the Finals, roughly June 15, and ends a couple of weeks into free agency, say July 15. This month-long period has an immense amount of transactions compressed into a small part of the year with contracts expiring, the NBA draft and the beginning of free agency. To most fans the actual season is the busiest time of year, but ask most basketball reporters and they will tell you the busiest time of year is right now.
During this time of year, the modern basketball fan really has no hope in ascertaining what is true and what isn’t. There are so many concurrent negotiations, the details of which are so fluid, that it is impossible to tell. In the last week, if we are to believe all of the reports, the Kevin Love situation has gone from Minnesota thinking Golden State had not offered enough to Golden State refusing to include Klay Thompson in the deal and thinking David Lee and Harrison Barnes alone can get it done. LeBron James is interested in going to Golden State, Houston or Los Angeles, and is also making a play to get Carmelo Anthony to sign with the Miami Heat. Every single team is looking to trade its draft picks.
The above details come from the best reporters in the business, not some shlubs off the street making things up. And to be clear, they probably aren’t wrong. Seven days ago there likely was a Timberwolves official who didn’t think Golden State was offering enough for Kevin Love, and today there likely is a Warriors official that refuses to trade away Klay Thompson. Every single team in the draft is assuredly fielding and making calls to figure out if they can get something better than what they have.
The only tool the discerning, truth-loving basketball fan has is to consider who benefits from and who is harmed by each report. General managers, agents and players usually don’t tell reporters things out of the goodness of their hearts, but in order to further their interests. When you think about reports that way, you often have a good clue of the source and can thus make a judgment about their truthiness.
The Warriors haven’t offered enough for Kevin Love? Likely a Timberwolves official trying to get more out of Warriors, or the agent of a Warriors player included in the deal trying to extract more for his client’s new team. Klay Thompson is deemed untouchable in trade talks? Like a Warriors official trying to convince the Timberwolves to accept a worse deal or trying to assure Klay Thompson that he is valued in the event that the trade does not materialize.
Being a basketball fan during silly season can be exhausting and whiplash-inducing. There ought to be some sort of way to track reliability, but as Larry Coon explains, that is much easier said that done. Until then, basketball fans are on their own.