BOSTON — New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum, the new president of the National Basketball Players Association, played Wednesday’s Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors.
McCollum is also the newest member of the media fraternity, signing with ESPN as an NBA analyst.
After the Celtics won 116-100 to take a 2-1 lead, McCollum – and the NBPA’s new chief executive, Tamika Tremaglio – waited in the hallway down the dressing room aisle for traffic to ease before exiting TD Garden.
Draymond Green emerged from the dressing room and was on his way to his post-match press conference, but he saw McCollum and stopped for a brief chat that ended in classic fashion.
McCollum, a journalism student, felt compelled to personally update Green on his Finals prediction rather than the forward being surprised to learn McCollum’s position on national television.
As viewers in the middle of the conversation, McCollum and Green allowed Yahoo Sports to release the details of their conversation.
“I have to tell you. I picked Boston to win Game 3, I picked you to win Game 4. But ultimately I got the Celtics to win the Finals,” McCollum told Green. “I just want you to hear it from me first before you hear me say it on TV.”
Green replied without hesitation, “That’s fine. These Celtics will still be ringless, just like you. Respect.”
Then Green just walked away with a grin.
“Damn, that was a hell of a comeback,” McCollum said to himself as he watched Green continue. “But hey, he heard it from me.”
Whether McCollum is right or not is anyone’s guess. He was manly enough and took his secondary profession seriously enough to feel it necessary to approach a supremely confident individual and tell him something Green probably didn’t like to hear at the time.
His approach is respected by the players and is a method of honor among his new part-time colleagues.
“With CJ last night, I appreciate it because that’s something people don’t do these days,” Green told Yahoo Sports. “I’m an asshole. I will always have something to say back. It just comes out like that. That’s just how I was made. I always got something quickly. That’s how my mind works. But I think CJ is incredible. I remember CJ doing media in his third or fourth year in the league when we were in the NBA Finals. He’s been doing this for a long time and to see him rewarded with his deal with ESPN is incredible for him. I think it’s incredible for the league.”
One of the basic guidelines in reporting professional sports is that if a journalist produces content in writing, on television or otherwise that is viewed as negative or controversial on the subject, he must be present at the practice or game the following day in order to to demonstrate a level of accountability.
While players may disapprove and disagree with the content of the content, they often respect that the reporter shows up and is available for further dialogue, sometimes even cursing sessions.
But the fairly new sector of double-dipping as an active player and active media analyst can confuse things in the gaming community.
Many players feel that there are codes that should never be broken and internal conversations that should never be spoken about, even if anonymity is granted.
Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem questioned Green, announcing Boston would eliminate them and advance to the NBA Finals, saying Green “broke the code.” Teammate PJ Tucker agreed.
Green is signed to TNT as an NBA analyst.
Many argued that the Heat overreacted, but what really matters is how current players feel about current players making predictions and expressing views critical of their peers.
“The way I see the dynamic, there’s a difference between being critical and being a hater,” Green told Yahoo Sports. “You see a lot of situations where former players hate. As someone who is very critical, I think it’s about understanding critical analysis and hate because those lines can get blurred quickly because ultimately those are the guys you’re competing with.
“And if you are critical, you must have knowledge and provide examples. You need to know how to say what you’re trying to say without just saying, ‘Draymond sucked last night.’ But why did Draymond suckle last night? Draymond was bad because he didn’t shoot the ball well, or didn’t shoot at all, or didn’t defend well, or because Jaylen Brown had 21 points in the first half. Whatever it is, I think it’s about understanding what you’re saying, understanding the game, and then showing that to people, rather than just throwing shit.
McCollum proved he was paying attention in those Lehigh University journalism classes. Green might not have liked McCollum’s message, but as a fellow player and NBA analyst, he respected the approach.
Only time will tell how this dynamic develops over the long term.
“I think the truth has been lost in the media. Nobody tells the truth anymore. And I think the biggest thing when I say ‘new media’ is the guys telling the truth again and that’s important to the game,” Green told Yahoo Sports. “I think our game has taken a hit because of the lies that surround this game, because of the narratives that are being driven and may not be entirely true. And I think players are pushing back on lies. You see JJ Redick on ESPN every day telling this truth and killing these fake narratives that are being circulated around this game.
“So I didn’t take CJ’s comment personally at all last night. Just he talk shit, I talk shit and we keep it moving. There’s not much honesty left in this business. And I think what players are bringing it back, like CJ, like myself, like JJ Redick who just retired two months ago and Pat Beverley. I think what players bring back to that is the truth. I love it.”