Despite what you may have been lead to believe, free agency hasn’t actually started. Teams were allowed to contact players starting 12:01 a.m. on July 1, but they can’t actually sign then until 12:01 a.m. on July 10. Teams are racing to secure agreements, but there aren’t yet any contracts. This isn’t just a technicality: last summer Donald Sterling (who else) almost tanked an already-agreed-upon-but-not-yet-allowed-to-be-consummated three-way trade to bring JJ Redick to Los Angeles.
Despite the fact that stars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony aren’t even allowed to sign a contract for another day, the rumor mill does not abate. Much has been written in the past couple weeks (by myself and others) about it, mostly focusing on the reporters and fans. Conspicuously absent, however, are the players. Every once in awhile a player will put reporters on blast, or a team executive will give an interview rubbishing a report, but for the most part this is a game that doesn’t involve them.
No disrespect but check with the actual source next time before you put something like that out there @WojYahooNBA
— Julius Randle (@J30_RANDLE) June 12, 2014
By most accounts, LeBron James was on vacation during the first few days of July. When asked about the free agency process yesterday by AP, he responded, “no complaints.” That is the only public statement he has issued on the process. Until a day or two ago he wasn’t even actually meeting with teams. In the meantime, however, the Sourcing Industrial Complex continued to grow.
Somebody desperately trying to become twitter famous “reports” that his “sources” (said person has no sources to report anything) told him that Nike bought every available billboard in Cleveland to announce James’ return, and for some reason all of Cleveland ran with the report, forcing actual reporter Marc Stein to quash it. A Cleveland talk radio host “reported” that Dan Gilbert was on his way to South Florida, and then had to backtrack and lash out at being proven wrong when Dan Gilbert tweeted that he was sitting in his backyard in Cleveland.
Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony has been travelling around the country meeting with the Knicks, Bulls, Rockets, Mavericks and Lakers. One of the factors that will determine which teams he signs is the reported desire of his wife to remain living in New York, and Anthony’s stated hesitance to uproot his son. The Anthony family is doing the same thing families all across the world do every single day, balancing careers, lifestyles, wants and needs of all family members and their economic situation in making decisions. Totally reasonable, right?
Wrong, you dolt. According to basketball fans, taking your wife’s desire into account when making a decision that is life-changing for both you and her means you are pussy whipped. Anthony is a bitch if he listens to his wife AND she’s a bitch for having the nerve to have an opinion on where she lives. Doesn’t she know her place is in the kitchen?
If you’re getting the sense that the stars can’t win, well you’re onto something. If they sign for a max contract, they will be pilloried for having hamstrung their teams’ ability to compete, what Zach Lowe calls “the NBA’s double standard of ‘sacrifice’.” If LeBron re-signs with Miami he will be tearing out Cavaliers fans’ hearts again; if he returns to Cleveland he will have twice left a team in the lurch. Either way one fan base will vehemently hate him and 28 others will dislike him.
The media-fan relationship is mostly a symbiotic one. Fans demand ever-more information about the free agency process, and reporters oblige them. Reporters need fans to click on and link to their stories, so they report every last small change in information. Nobody in these situations is the bad guy—except the idiots that make up reports and the “reporters” that are more megaphone than reporter—and nobody is behaving maliciously.
It’s just sad that the byproduct of perfectly understandable desires and motives of fans and reporters is a long, drawn out, two week killing of the reputations of the NBA’s stars.