In media circles, NBA Free Agency is also known as the annual Woj vs. Shams Grand Prix. NBA's top two insiders battle to be the first to tweet contract details and trade packages.
What's more interesting, if you develop an eye for it, is to monitor their accounts days before - sifting out what's real and when are they sending out trial balloons to curry favor with agents and players.
”The Kyrie stuff was embarrassing”
In the good old days, news breaking was bringing out to the public eye something that would have stayed hidden otherwise. Nowadays, it's tweeting out something that’s going to be public in a matter of hours regardless of your tweet.
We all get how Shams and Woj get the stuff they get - it's transactional. An agent or player leaks it to them as a favor, a favor that has to be repaid at a certain point. That’s why sometimes tweets read as if they were written by agents or players themselves (hint; they probably are.) Hell, that's why suddenly agents and agencies started getting named (and sometimes even praised) in the tweets. It's called marketing.
“At what point do you feel like you lose credibility when you're just carrying water for a source or a contact. 'Cause, Shams, who I think has done a lot of good work and is on his way up, he's been able to go toe-to-toe with Woj. But the Kyrie stuff was kind of embarrassing.”
Bill Simmons, The Bill Simmons Podcast
After days of drama and speculation, Kyrie Irving opted into his player option with the Nets. If you were following Twitter, you probably thought the Nets were lucky Kyrie decided to give them one more chance. Bill Simmons explains it was the other way around.
“Making it seem like Kyrie had all these sign-and-trade options, he was sifting through them, it came close a couple of times; "ultimately, Kyrie has decided to go back..." Simmons started, and then clarified the reality of Kyrie's situation. ”Dude, that guy had no options. The only team that was remotely interested in him was the Lakers, and it was for the mid-level exception. They knew they couldn't trade Westbrook for him.”
Kyrie "Tracy Jordan" Irving
In a "the emperor is naked" moment, Simmons pointed out everyone understood the only option Kyrie had was the mid-level, probably in L.A., or the $36 million option in Brooklyn. So he did what all-stars do, they get the money and then ask for a trade (btw, that's what Bradley Beal did, and we all know it.)
”Why are the fans treated like they're dumb sometimes??? We know the actual story, why can't we say it that way??,” Simmons wondered. Well, a part of it is the strategy of free agency. Teams want to hide their moves and intentions, so they leak semi-truths. It's all a process of negotiating, and you could say that that's what Kyrie was doing - trying to drum up leverage. But, how did we get to such an embarrassing level when everyone knew Kyrie had no options, and Shams still tried to make it seem like he did?
I never thought I'd use this comparison, but more and more NBA stars are turning into Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock. A star whose talents seem so irreplaceable that their entourage laughs at the same joke every time and lets them win at HALO.
It was more important to Shams to keep Tracy, sorry, Kyrie happy, and be mocked by everyone else watching than to say "no" to the star. How far will it go? Hopefully not as far as it did in 30 Rock.