BOSTON — New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum, the new president of the National Basketball Players Association, took in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday between the Boston Celtics and 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 go up 2-1, McCollum — and new executive director of the NBPA, Tamika Tremaglio — waited in the hallway down the aisle of the locker rooms to allow traffic to die down before departing TD Garden.
Draymond Green emerged from the locker room and was en route to do his postgame news conference, but he saw McCollum and stopped for a brief chat that ended in classic fashion.
McCollum, a journalism major, felt a responsibility to inform Green of his Finals prediction in person rather than the forward being surprised to learn McCollum’s position on national television.
Being a bystander amid the conversation, McCollum and Green allowed Yahoo Sports to publish the details of their conversation.
“I’ve got to tell you this. I picked Boston to win Game 3, I picked you guys to win Game 4. But ultimately, I’ve got the Celtics winning the Finals,” McCollum told Green. “I just want you to hear it from me first before you hear me say it on TV.”
Green, without hesitation, responded, “That’s fine. Those Celtics will still be ringless just like you. Respect.”
Then Green just walked off with a smirk.
“Damn, that was a good ass comeback,” McCollum said to himself as he watched Green mosey on. “But, hey, he heard it from me.”
Whether or not McCollum is proven right is beyond the point. He was man enough, and took his secondary professional trade serious enough to find it necessary to approach a highly confident figure and tell him something Green probably didn’t enjoy hearing at the time.
His approach is respected by the players and it’s an honorable method among his new part-time peers.
“With CJ last night, I appreciate it because that’s something people in this day and age don’t do,” Green told Yahoo Sports. “I’m a s***-talker. I’m always going to have something to say back. It just naturally comes out like that. That’s just how I’m made up. I always got something quick. That’s just how my mind works. But I think CJ is incredible. I remember going back to his third or fourth year in the league, CJ was doing media when we were in the NBA Finals. He’s been doing it for a very long time and to see him rewarded with his deal with ESPN, I think is incredible for him. I think it’s incredible for the league.”
One of the fundamental guidelines in covering professional sports is that when a journalist produces content, via written, TV or otherwise, that is deemed negative or controversial to the subject, it’s a must to be present at practice or games the next day to display a level of accountability.
While players may disapprove and disagree with the substance of the content, they often respect that the reporter shows up and is available for further dialogue, and sometimes even cursing-out sessions.
But the fairly new sector of double-dipping as active player and active media analyst can convolute matters among the player fraternity.
Many players feel there are codes that are never to be broken and internal conversations that are never to be spoken of, even if granted anonymity.
Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem took issue with Green proclaiming Boston would eliminate them and advance to the NBA Finals, saying Green “broke the code.” Teammate PJ Tucker agreed.
Green is signed with TNT as an NBA analyst.
Many argued 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 view the dynamic is there is a difference between being critical and being a hater,” Green told Yahoo Sports. “You see a lot of situations where former players are hating. As someone who is very critical, I think it’s understanding critical analysis and hating, because those lines can get blurred fast because ultimately, these are the guys that you compete with.
“And so when you are critical, you have to have knowledge and provide examples. You have to know how to say what you’re trying to say without just saying, ‘Draymond sucked last night.’ But why did Draymond suck last night? Draymond sucked because he didn’t shoot the ball well, or he didn’t shoot at all, or he 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 laying that out for people as opposed to just throwing s*** out there.”
McCollum demonstrated that he paid attention in those Lehigh University journalism courses. Green might not have liked McCollum’s message, but as a fellow player and fellow NBA analyst, he respected the approach.
Only time will tell how this dynamic shapes up in the long run.
“I think in media, the truth has been lost. No one tells the truth anymore. And I think the biggest thing, when I speak of ‘new media,’ it’s guys telling the truth again, and that’s important to the game,” Green told Yahoo Sports. “I think our game has taken a hit due to the lies that surround this game, due to the narratives that are driven that may not quite be true. And I think players are pushing back on lies. You see JJ Redick on ESPN everyday telling that truth and killing these fake narratives that are put around this game.
“So I didn’t take CJ’s comment last night personal at all. It’s just him talking s***, me talking s*** and we keep it moving. There’s not a lot of honesty in this business anymore. 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 are bringing back to this is the truth. I love it.”
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