The NBA is a league where the sports media is constantly reporting and news seems to change by the minute. While this gives fans an unprecedented amount of access into the inner workings of the association, it can also lead to plenty of inaccurate reporting.
In recent months, the Dwight Howard and Phil Jackson conundrums of the Los Angeles Lakers have proved exactly why NBA fans should be hesitant to trust every rumor you hear.
The Lakers dumped Mike Brown following a 1-4 start to their season and some serious issues on the defensive end of the basketball. Almost instantly, rumors began to swirl that the team would bring back Jackson, who coached them to five championships before retiring following the 2010-11 campaign.
According to a New York Times piece by Howard Beck and Mark Heisler written on November 10, Jackson’s return to the Lakers was all but imminent. Beck and Heisler wrote that “The franchise wants Jackson back for a third tour, and Jackson wants to return,” indicating that the two parties had a mutual interest, and that a reunion seemed like a guarantee.
Beck's and Heisler's article noted that issues like yearly salary and whether Jackson would attend every road game due to his health would be issues to negotiate, but all signs seemed to point towards Jackson rejoining the organization.
Ultimately, however, those demands that initially were portrayed as small speed bumps were what kept the organization from bringing Jackson back into the fold. The team went with Mike D'Antoni on a three-year, $12 million deal with a fourth-year option held by the club.
Per the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan in a November 12 report on D'Antoni's hiring, "Jackson was the overwhelming favorite to return to the Lakers until they heard his informal demands, which included a stake in team ownership, according to a person familiar with the situation."
This proves just how unreliable NBA media can be, because information comes from so many different sources nowadays statements are analyzed and twisted differently by journalists who hear a certain fact one way instead of another.
Basketball media has grown very reliant on the "unnamed source", and while this will suffice for purely speculative rumors, it is not enough to go by when reporting on major developments in the league like the hiring of a new head coach or the trade of a franchise player.
This reduces the NBA media to the level of tabloid journalism, as one of the key tenants of sports media is the presence of credible sources to back up a report.
The issue of unknown sources was present in the Dwight Howard debacle that dominated headlines in the 2011-12 season, as the All-NBA center constantly changed his opinion publicly about whether he wanted to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers or Dallas Mavericks, or whether he actually wanted to stay with the same Orlando Magic team that drafted him out of high school in 2004.
At one point, even David Stern felt compelled to criticize the reliance on unnamed sources after it was revealed that Howard's own representatives were covertly leaking information about meetings between Howard and the Magic's brass in an ESPN article by Ric Bucher.
Even once the offseason commenced, it seemed more likely that Howard ended up donning Brooklyn black alongside Deron Williams than anything else. Another L.A. Times article, this one by Helene Elliott, states that, though Howard's first choice was to join the Nets, he was far from upset to end up in Los Angeles and once he arrived did not feel the pressure to follow in the footsteps of the Lakers' lineage of dominant big men.
The NBA media tends to take a fact and run with it, until it is difficult to even see where the initial report came from. This kind of journalism is irresponsible and seriously hurts the legitimacy of sports writers as a whole.
Can sports fans trust the NBA media?
And though it was swept under the rug by Dwight's much-publicized trade, there was plenty of media controversy surrounding Williams's free agency decision between his hometown Dallas Mavericks and his current Nets team.
In March, websites like ESPN Dallas were reporting that Williams was leaning towards joining the Mavs, but ultimately the thought of playing for a playoff-caliber team and being the centerpiece of a new and exciting franchise simply proved too tempting to resist for D-Will.
However, the additional salary and long-term security proved too appealing, and Williams decided to remain with the Dallas team that mortgaged their future in an attempt to sign him in 2013.
All media is speculation to a degree, but the NBA media in particular has struggled recently with credibility, and until it can prove that sources are legitimate and not baseless, NBA fans must be very careful about what information they trust.