In a podcast episode of "The Draymond Green Show," as the Golden State Warriors veteran tries to explain what he describes as the "new media" in an extended diatribe mostly directed at Fox Sports' Skip Bayless, he appears to blame his suspension for Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals on what he calls the "real media."
"These guys' opinions matter. I'm certain that some media members had conversations with people in the league office about whether I should be suspended or not for that game," he said. "Your opinion matters."
The league does not consult media members on suspensions. I know this because of a "traditional media" crutch called "fact-checking." I say this not just to dunk on Green from a journalist's perch, but to cite an example of how little players understand the profession. In his attempt to find common ground between players and media for the benefit of the viewers' understanding of basketball, Green's generalizations about the media are every bit as ill-informed as the mischaracterizations of NBA players from Bayless and his ilk.
As best I can tell, according to explanations on both Green's show and retired NBA player JJ Redick's "Old Man and the Three" podcast, the "new media," of which they are supposed co-founders, has two basic tenets: praising good performances and viewing bad performances through the prism of critical analysis.
"The new media is simple," Green said, sharing a stage with Redick for a joint live episode of their podcasts in June, along with special guest Stephen A. Smith. "It's very simple. It's actually analyzing the game of basketball. It's actually giving those flowers when flowers are due. ... Be very critical, but tell us the whole truth. ... I think that's been lost, and what's replaced it is titles and headlines and hot takes for clickbait."
This is a wonderful idea, and one mostly shared by the vast majority of NBA media members, save for the part that suggests the journalists covering the sport should act as a public relations firm for those playing it.
All too often, though, the self-proclaimed "new media" swims in the same waters as the "real media" it criticizes. Narratives diverge, and fans are left to wonder which to follow — the one, say, Bayless scripts about LeBron James or the one James crafts about himself. Any real substance is lost in the undercurrent.
Players are as biased about the game as the people debating it on television, and the way to generate high-quality content for everyone's sake is to better understand the best and worst of each other's professions.
The challenge of critiquing the game you're playing
"In the game of basketball, what's been lost is, I can turn on the TV, and I can learn about the game of basketball," Green said during his discussion with Redick and Smith. "I can get the X's and O's and the ins and outs and the understanding that there's a game within the game. Most fans don't understand that there are so many little games within the game, and if you don't understand them, then you have missed them."
Green has harped on this subject, boiling down his "new media" philosophy to this single principle: "If we can talk about basketball, that's the discussion. That's what the topic should be. Let's keep it basketball."
Yet, we don't see Green lauding the measured analysis of ESPN's Zach Lowe and a growing number of thoughtful journalists, which includes the beat reporters in every NBA city. We see Green bashing Bayless.
And what "game within the game" turned the Finals for the Warriors against the Boston Celtics?
"When Jaylen Brown went to the media and said, ‘He tried to pull my shorts down,' I knew I took his heart. I knew for the rest of the series, I had him," said Green, "because you know you’re standing over me and you go to the media and say, ‘He was trying to pull my shorts down.’ Come on, bro, you’re standing over me."
That was Game 2, and that's not the "whole truth." Green rested his legs on Brown and shoved him before the Celtics wing got to his feet and stood over his aggressor. This did not impede Brown from scoring a team-high 27 points on 16 shots to take a 2-1 series lead a few nights later. It also didn't seem to impact Brown when his back-to-back buckets gave Boston a two-possession lead with 7:32 remaining in Game 4.
Green was benched in favor of Kevon Looney for the next four minutes, and the Warriors leveraged an 11-3 run to never look back — in the game or the series. In a postgame podcast entitled "Steph Curry Went God-Mode," Green credited Juan Toscano-Anderson, among others, for tampering his temper during his fourth-quarter benching, and then lauded Curry's 43 points and Andrew Wiggins' career-high 16 rebounds.
"I watch teams every year in the playoffs not sub guys that they know they should sub, and they lose," Green said. "So, the fact that Steve [Kerr] went away from me for a little while, was I pissed off and frustrated? Absolutely. Seven minutes to go in an extremely important game. You can't go down 3-1."
Which is it? If we're "keeping it basketball," did the series swing on Brown taking umbrage with pantsings? Or did it swing late in Game 4, when Curry was sublime, Wiggins found a level of effort that had escaped him for the previous six seasons of his career and the Warriors leaned on Looney instead of Green?
The bias behind rose-colored 'new media' glasses
Green is a main character in the story he is shaping. There is nothing new about this medium. It's exactly what Kevin Durant, then deputy publisher of The Players' Tribune, told Ken Berger for a February 2016 CBS Sports article entitled, "How players are controlling their own media and what it means for the NBA."
"I just feel like when you read a Players' Tribune story, you can almost read it in the player's voice — that it's 100% them, 100% their words and their insights and thoughts about the game or whatever the topic is," Durant told Berger at the time. "You get total control over every single part of the article and what comes out. I think players are gravitating towards that a little bit more because it's 100% your voice."
"That’s why I started Uninterrupted," James told Sports Illustrated's Chris Ballard for a recent cover story. "I got sick and tired of media changing the narrative or picking their own narrative about what I was doing."
Is his narrative any more believable when he says in discussions with former players that fit the "new media" description, "The one thing that I know for sure, that I've been a part of two teams that won the two hardest championships in NBA history," or, "I'm the greatest basketball player people have ever seen"? Do we trust the primary source when James tweets, "Can't wait for [Russell Westbrook] to go off this season," considering the cold shoulders the Los Angeles Lakers teammates gave each other at Las Vegas Summer League?
Or do we put more faith in multiple media reports that the relationship between James and Westbrook is "frosty," "James badly wants [Kyrie] Irving to take his place," and, "It’s pretty darn clear that LeBron James has seen enough and he has no interest in going another year with Russell Westbrook as his teammate"?
As Green has said, "The new media, we protect guys. This isn't about tearing people down."
This is not journalistic integrity, either. This is players spinning narratives to their benefit. That is fine. Let's just agree that "new media" is no less biased than another media member who is paid to offer their opinion.
Yet, Green said on his podcast, "You've got guys like Bill Simmons, who's a Boston diehard fan through and through, that's not really giving you the real, because he's not impartial. What happened to the days of doing a great job in media and your stories and your takes and just giving analysis, not being a homer?"
Again, this demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the media. In the old days, there were columnists, whose job it was to provide thought-provoking opinions in an entertaining fashion, and there were reporters, who were tasked with breaking and covering news, free from opinion. The jobs were as different as a studio analyst is to a sideline reporter, or as Green is to Curry, during an NBA broadcast.
Modern media blends the two, just as positions are changing in basketball. Some are better than others. There are entire websites and social media accounts dedicated to aggregating information and spinning it into the most viral content possible, regardless of its accuracy, and there are countless media members who despise the practice. Everyone in the media game seems to understand this, save for some players.
'New media' is taking the bait of its haters
Maybe the divide between athletes and reporters isn't as wide as we think. ClutchPoints is no closer to defining media than Bayless is, and Green somehow misses this despite falling victim to their trappings.
On the eve of Game 1 of this year's Finals, when one Twitter user clipped a two-minute portion of Green saying on his podcast, "Curry got double-teamed probably seven times the amount that KD did," and another Twitter user shared it with Durant, who responded, "From my view of it, this is 100% false," Green said, "You have to learn to listen to full takes and not snippets before you get baited into tweeting Champ."
One month earlier, Green took a clip of Simmons out of context, implying on Instagram that The Ringer founder was personally attacking Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green, rather than explaining in a joking effort, "F*** Jalen Green" as a candidate for the All-Rookie first team over New Orleans Pelicans forward Herb Jones, and then called for the league to revoke "The Book of Basketball" author's All-NBA vote.
"What work has he done in this life that qualifies him to have a say in an NBA player's salary?" he asked.
Whether or not All-NBA votes should dictate player salaries is an issue for a different day — and one the media neither asked for nor covets. The issue here is players are completely comfortable establishing themselves as the pinnacle of media while embracing the very aspects they consider the worst of it.
In their relatively brief forays into media, Green has already apologized for using a racial slur in his criticism of former player turned ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins, and Redick has insulted the league's founding superstars for implying Bob Cousy "was being guarded by plumbers and firemen." Both Redick and Green have voiced their opposition to comparisons across NBA generations while actively participating in them.
"It's very dumb to compare one era to the next era," Green said in July. His very next tweet? "I’m watching the [1998 Chicago] Bulls vs. Utah [Jazz] in the Finals. ... I can’t help but notice our 2017 [Warriors] would’ve beaten these Bulls by a dub and these Jazz by 40 if they’re going to play these brands of basketball."
Does "new media" want debate removed from sports? Because that's not fun. Or is it actively engaging in the same shameless self-promotion Bayless is, only from the opposite side of the ball? None of it serves the fans, who are left to sort through those biases on both sides before coming to their own conclusions.
It's not dissimilar to how Durant and Irving, both "new media" proponents, clamor for journalists to cover "what is truly happening," while not offering an explanation of why they both wanted off the Brooklyn Nets. Somebody leaked news that Durant wanted general manager Sean Marks and coach Steve Nash fired, and it was of no benefit to the Nets, but the future Hall of Famer has neither confirmed nor denied it publicly.
So, players are "new media" when it benefits them and anti-media when it doesn't, even as they participate in both. Green's podcast appears on The Volume network founded by Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd, who had on a number of occasions diminished Green's career in the manner he has so vehemently opposed. Green also recently joined the cast of "Inside the NBA," the same program that Durant has repeatedly criticized for promoting Charles Barkley, "a hatin old head that can’t accept that we making more bread than them."
Finding a common ground for players and media
"New media" is just media, same as it ever was, and those who succeed generally deliver information with an original combination of education, investigation, analysis and/or entertainment. Everyone is better served if players and media boost the work of those who avoid the traps of a hater's slant, rather than merely praising that which serves their interests and condemning that which doesn't. Whether anyone emerges with his integrity in tact is on each individual. Barkley has walked this razor's edge for 20 years.
"I have to speak out, even if some people get pissed off at it," he told SI in 2002. "I don't think everybody's going to like me, and I don't think I'm right all the time. But I'm going to say what I feel and what I think."
Barkley is beloved for his authenticity, but what he feels and thinks has gotten him into plenty of trouble with the "new media." When Barkley said of Green in the 2018 playoffs, "I just want somebody to punch him in the face," the Warriors forward told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami, "I think it’s pretty sad … when you look at the president of TNT, David Levy, which I know well, it’s kind of embarrassing on their behalf."
Green signed a contract to join Barkley on the "Inside the NBA" staff in January. Months later, Green was on his podcast criticizing former Celtics player turned analyst Cedric Maxwell for saying during the Finals, "Don't act like in the '80s [Green] wouldn't have been knocked out" for his Game 2 dustup with Brown.
"I play basketball," Green said in his "new media vs. old media" podcast episode. "When I go out on the basketball court, I'm not going out there to punch somebody in the mouth. I'm not going out there trying to pick a fight with anybody. I am going out on the basketball court to simply win a basketball game."
That's his narrative, and he's sticking to it. The tape that led to his suspension in the 2016 Finals tells a different tale. There are at least two sides to every story, and we should all — new media, real media, whatever you want to call it — commit to understanding each other's jobs and telling the whole truth.
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