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NBA AM: Sourced Information Makes The World Go Round

Using “sources” doesn’t mean you’re not talking to people that know, because information comes from lots of places.

Steve Kyler

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Oh, How We Love Sources

Yesterday there was a tweet from a long-time and well-respected NBA writer, suggesting that LeBron James was “100% gone from Cleveland,” citing an unrepairable and untenable relationship with Cavs ownership. The tweeted report came via “sources close to” which is always a dubious tool writers almost have to use.

Before we get too far into this, and by way of full disclosure, this writer (me) uses the “sources” tool to help disseminate information that the person or persons involved simply don’t want to deal with in the court of public opinion.

Given how prevalent the “sources say” tool is used it’s important to understand how this kind of world works:

Agents

In the offseason, the largest source of “sourced” information comes from the agent community. While there are some agents, you have likely heard of such as Dan Fegan, Andy Miller (ASM Sports), B.J. Armstrong (Wasserman), Bill Duffy (BDA Sports), and Jeff Schwartz (Excel Sports), these are the top of the food chain in the agent world. However, the army of support agents that work under them or the smaller agents that have a small group of clients make up the biggest percentage of the agent community. They also make up the largest sewing circle of NBA information out there. These guys are usually talking with their clients daily and are interfacing with team personnel frequently. Many of which are trying to come up in the world and having information and being willing to share that information make them valuable—valuable to reporters and valuable to teams that need to know what’s real.

In the NBA, information is currency, and it often is used to garner favor.

It’s rare that top tier agents do much talking unless you are the elite of the elite. However, getting information from the next tier is pretty common, and it’s where the bulk of chatter comes from.

Teams

It’s easy to group NBA teams into one body. However, they are 30 different constructions with different rules and different leadership styles. General managers are rarely the source of rumors, however, they typically are the source for things that really clarify previous information. It is not uncommon for a GM to say, “I don’t want to be quoted on this, but here is what’s really going on,” or to reach out and say “Hey, I don’t want to be quoted on this, but that story you put out isn’t completely true” or “We’re really not doing that.”

Most NBA teams employ a small army of people, some with access to information for a number of job-related reasons. Whether it is the PR staff, the operations staff or the coaching staff, the touch points for team information is pretty deep. The problem with information from a team about their team is it usually is not accurate unless it’s in the framework of a denial.

Teams leverage the media to help their own objectives. Whether that’s drumming up interest in trades, smoke screens about draft prospects or free agents.

Teams are a good source for the internal dynamics of a team. It’s not uncommon for a team employee to share stories about practices run ins or on the road “side stories.” The “behind the scenes” stuff commonly comes from the team side.

It’s important to point out that a number of teams have started to really crack down on leaks of team information. One franchise had their staffers sign documents stating that at any time they may be asked to produce their cell phone and detailed cell records if it’s believed they are the source of information that’s gotten out.

With information being so critical to team success, controlling information is becoming a bigger point of emphasis. Given how quickly things get out in the social media world and how quickly the wrong information can create real damage for teams, it’s a real thing in NBA circles, especially if a key player surfaces in a rumor that’s not real.

Other Teams

Other teams are some great sources of information about other teams. Historically, the most noise in the trade market comes from teams not involved in the deal. This kind of information can be problematic because those parties usually are not playing an active role in the deal. They are also usually the source for stuff that took place weeks ago that may be long dead.

The tone of a story can often tip you off on who it came from. Teams that are not pursuing a player may be more casual in how they describe the player or the value of a deal. It’s pretty uncommon for a team actively trying to land a player to talk up that player or being overly negative.

Equally, the smart teams understand that the NBA is a small world and the player you talk badly about one year may end up on your roster at some point in the future. So trashing him to a reporter can come back to haunt you later.

Like agents, there is a small army of support people that use the information to garner favor, especially in a world where the Assistant GM or the Director of Player Personnel has eyes on running his own team one day and having public support doesn’t hurt the equation.

Own Team’s Players

It is fairly common for players on a roster to share information about players on their team. Players are usually the worst source for trade-related commentary, but usually the best source for how a player feels about their situation, what they are telling their teammates and how they interact with coaches and executives.

Players are pretty protective of other players. They also tend to live in a bubble because of their lifestyle, especially in-season. Like teams, not all players are open to sharing, but given that reporters and players tend to spend the most time together, that’s typically the source for things a player may share in a casual conversation and not in a traditional on the record interview type session.

Other Team Players

Players on other teams are also a big source of information. Keep in mind a lot of players share similar agents or agencies. Many players have friendships outside their own team dynamic. Players often train with each other, and those players usually will chime in on things. Again, in most situations, it’s casual conversations not on the record quotes, which is why they are typically presented as “sources.”

A fun example of this was when Dwight Howard ultimately made his decision to leave the Lakers for Houston, he happened to have worked out with a player on another team and, in casual conversation, told that player he was picking Houston. That player shared that information with others, and that’s how the information got out ahead of Howard’s planned release.

The Peripheral

The peripheral is usually the problem in the “sourced” information world. These are those people that love to talk, but are generally not directly connected to the subject. This is where the hearsay comes from, and it’s typically where the most inaccurate information comes from.

The one thing worth saying is it’s fairly common to accuse a reporter or a writer of “making it up,” but that’s usually never true, especially not from reputable writers and reporters. What does happen, though, is a reporter hears something from a credible “peripheral” source, and that source ends up being wrong.

A good example of this was something that happened to me this year at the NBA draft, I was talking with a very well-connected agent in the business, who used to be a part of a larger agency that had represented a player who was being actively shopped around the draft. This agent spoke with people in that player’s camp hours before our conversation, and it turned out the teams being mentioned most heavily in the hours leading up to the draft were no longer engaged in talks. According to this agent, two new teams were the front runners in the hours leading up to the draft.

From my perspective, this was a highly credible source, who explained how he got the information and from who. This is the definition of a “peripheral” source. He was not directly involved, did not have a seat in any conversation, but knew all the details and was someone I have known for years and is always hyper-credible.

Would you run that? That’s something every writer or reporter has to weigh.

Journalistically, you try and validate that with another source, but in the real-time world of news, that’s not always as easy as you’d like. Especially knowing that the teams involved are not going to comment, the player involved usually doesn’t know the minute-by-minute.

It’s not easy, and that’s typically why a writer or reporter may put something out that doesn’t end up happening as described or ends up being denied later.

This is what makes writers like Adrian Wojnarowski so special in this space, given how accurate he has been over such a long stretch of time.

The purpose here wasn’t anything more than helping you understand how rumors and “sourced” information comes about. By no means is it meant to agree or disagree with anyone’s reporting or reporting style, simply to explain how people in this business get the information they get and why it often goes unnamed and labeled “sourced.”

It’s also important to understand the role of the writer and reporter is to be your eyes and ears. Our mission here at Basketball Insiders is to tell you the stories not being told, to add value to the discussion with our wealth of experts and experience. Not everyone is driven by great stories, but that’s what we strive to do every day.

Sometimes we need to protect our relationships with “sources” say commentary, mainly because those relationships power what we do.

Hopefully, this helps you understand the business. You can always decide for yourself who you want to believe and not believe.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton, @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @CodyTaylorNBA, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_ and @Ben__Nadeau .

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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New Orleans Pelicans and Cliff Alexander Agree To Deal

Michael Scotto

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The New Orleans Pelicans and free agent forward Cliff Alexander have agreed to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal, a league source told Basketball Insiders.

The addition of Alexander will give New Orleans 20 players heading into training camp.

Alexander spent last season playing 40 combined games with the Erie Bayhawks and Long Island Nets in the G-League, where he averaged 15.8 points and 8.9 rebounds in 27.3 minutes per game. Alexander also shot 52 percent from the field and blocked one shot per game.

The 21-year-old forward was a McDonald’s All-American and won MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic in 2014 before attending Kansas University. Alexander played 28 games as a Jayhawk and averaged 7.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 17.6 minutes per game before declaring for the draft.

After going undrafted, Alexander played in eight games for Portland during the 2015-16 season and received a 10-day contract from the Brooklyn Nets in April.

For more information on the salary cap and roster situation for the New Orleans Pelicans, click here.

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Atlanta Hawks and John Jenkins Agree To Deal

Michael Scotto

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The Atlanta Hawks and free agent guard John Jenkins have agreed to a training camp deal, a league source told Basketball Insiders.

The addition of Jenkins will give Atlanta 20 players heading into training camp.

Jenkins drew interest from several other teams, including the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks.

The 26-year-old guard began his career in Atlanta after the Hawks selected him 23rd overall out of Vanderbilt in the 2012 draft. For his career, Jenkins has averaged 5.1 points in 12.8 minutes per game while shooting 45 percent from the field overall and 36 percent from beyond the arc.

For more information on Atlanta’s salary cap and roster situation, click here.

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NBA

Golden State Warriors 2017-18 Season Preview

The Golden State Warriors remain the cream of the NBA crop, even after several franchises went all in this offseason. Can anyone really beat the Warriors in a seven-game series? We look at the Warriors in this final NBA season preview.

Basketball Insiders

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After losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015-16 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors were highly favored to win the 2016-17 championship with the offseason addition of Kevin Durant. In the Warriors’ third straight Finals match up with Cavaliers, Golden State, with plenty of help from Durant, over-matched Cleveland in last season’s NBA Finals. This year, with Durant taking a pay cut, the team did a masterful job of bringing back just about all of the key players from last year’s championship run. Now the team is primed to wreak havoc on the league once again.

FIVE GUYS THINK…

It’s almost comical at this point how the best team in basketball keeps getting better.

After adding Kevin Durant last summer, and then completely decimating the entire NBA, including LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, all the Golden State Warriors did was go out and add two players in Omri Casspi and Nick Young who almost perfectly fit their brand of “you’re not out-shooting us” basketball.

The powers of the NBA all shuffled around their rosters this season in hopes of trying to assemble some type of “anti-Warriors” remedy, and when it’s all said and done, those moves will be all for naught. Expect Golden State to ride their legendary roster to another NBA title.

1st place – Pacific Division

– Dennis Chambers

What do you need me to say about the Warriors that you don’t already know? Two of the best five players in the league are on the roster, as well as arguably the top defensive player in the league and a cast of reserves that fit perfectly with the superstars running the show. Even JaVale McGee is shooting three pointers now. The Warriors are unstoppable and in some ways even better than the team that won a championship a few months ago. It’s going to be a long season for every other team in the league. They’re all playing for second place.

1st Place – Pacific Division

– Joel Brigham

The road to the NBA Finals obviously goes through Oakland, especially after the club managed to re-sign JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Nick Young will give the team some additional firepower, but they probably don’t even need it.

So long as these guys stay healthy, they’ll probably find their way to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals, and with the Clippers having lost Chris Paul, the Warriors should have a relatively easy time winning the Pacific Division for the fourth straight year.

I’m usually longer-winded than that, but I’m not sure much else needs to be said about the Warriors.

1st place – Pacific Division

– Moke Hamilton

At this point, what’s really left to say? The Warriors had arguably the best basketball team ever assembled last season, and that was while dealing with minor role concerns and dealing with Kevin Durant’s midseason injury. Then they went out and improved this offseason, adding the likes of Omri Casspi and Nick Young as perfect end-of-roster pieces. Combine that with what most would expect will be even better fit and chemistry across the roster this season, and the Warriors stand head and shoulders above the rest of the league even with several squads making big power moves to try and bridge the gap. Anything but a third title in four years will fail to do justice to the incredible, historical talent on this roster.

1st Place – Pacific Division

– Ben Dowsett

The best team in the NBA went out and retained key players and signed Omri Casspi and Nick Young to round out the roster. As has been the case for several years now, the Warriors enter the upcoming season with the most overall talent, improved chemistry, good health and every ingredient necessary to win an NBA championship. Several other contenders pulled off some impressive moves to try and bridge the gap between themselves and the Warriors, but Golden State still holds the advantage against every other team in the league. So long as the Warriors are playing up to their potential, or anywhere near it, the other contenders are out of luck. Unless the Warriors face some serious injuries this upcoming season or some internal discord, we should expect them to win their third championship in four seasons.

1st Place – Pacific Division

– Jesse Blancarte

TOP OF THE LIST

Top Offensive Player: Stephen Curry/Kevin Durant

Don’t knock me for not clearly choosing a single player here. The individual excellence of both Stephen Curry and Durant cannot be stated enough. While Curry’s statistics did take a bit of a step back from the year prior, he still led the way for the Warriors last season. Last year, Curry led the team in points per game (by a slim margin), three-pointers made, assists and usage percentage. Keep in mind, Durant was excellent but Curry still commanded the offense for the most part. However, Durant was right on Curry’s heels and in the playoffs actually slightly surpassed Curry in points per game. In addition, Durant remains as tough to cover one-on-one as anyone in the league. Regardless, both players are unbelievable individual talents and would easily be the top offensive player on just about any other team.

Top Defensive Player: Draymond Green

For the foreseeable future, Draymond Green has this category on lockdown for the Warriors. Green uses a combination of length, strength, timing and sneaky athleticism to smother his opponents. Green’s versatility allows him to guard a range of positions in the post and switch to guard guards and forwards on the wing effectively as well. His versatility is the lynchpin of the Warrior’s vaunted death line up that uses Green at center and brings Iguodala off the bench to close games. Last year’s Defensive Player of the Year race came down to Green and Utah center Rudy Gobert. In the end, Green’s versatility as well as his ability to guard the rim effectively made him the top choice in voters’ minds. Expect Green to be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year this upcoming season as well.

Top Playmaker: Stephen Curry

When the Warriors added Durant to the roster, many wondered, even for a team as unselfish as the Warriors, how would Stephen Curry and Durant manage to share the ball? That question was answered when Curry took a step back and allowed Durant’s individual offensive brilliance to shine. Curry’s points per game dropped (30.1 to 25.3) as did his usage percentage (32.0 to 29.2). Curry’s individual excellence continued regardless as he remained the Warriors’ top distributor (followed closely by Draymond Green). In addition, Curry garners so much attention that his simple presence on the court creates more room for teammates to operate. Curry’s ability to pull up from virtually anywhere on the court and willingness to make the extra pass to teammates makes him a nightmare to cover and the Warriors’ top playmaker.

Top Clutch Player: Kevin Durant/Stephen Curry

Once again, you could give this award to either of the Warrior’s two best offensive players. Curry dominates most of the advanced statistics when breaking down clutch play, defined as the last minutes of a game within 5 point or less, per nba.com. However, based on Durant’s size, length and ability to get off a shot in isolation, he makes for an excellent clutch player in just about any situation. Either is an extraordinary option and their play in crunch time continues to be critical to their championship fortunes.

The Unheralded Player: Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson is a phenomenal talent who does a number of things well. He’s an unbelievable three-point shooter and defends elite point guards to alleviate the pressure on Curry. For a team with two elite offensive players, having Thompson as your third option on offense is just unfair to the rest of the league. Thompson lights up the league with his ability to hit outside shots without needing to dominate the ball. Don’t just count on Thompson to score as he takes pride in his defense and his ability to lockdown on defense.

Best New Addition: Omri Casspi

Overall, the Warriors have had an unbelievable stretch of luck when it comes to injuries, which will hopefully rub off on Omri Casspi this season. With his length, versatility and the ability to stretch the floor, he can slide into either forward spot. His addition strengthens the team’s ability to survive the grind of the regular season and lessen the minutes of the starters. Casspi fills a lot of needs for several teams that are looking to challenge the Warriors, so simply keeping him away from those teams is an added benefit to his signing.

– James Blancarte

WHO WE LIKE

1. Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr continues to be the perfect coach for this team. He helps to keep the players focused on their individual roles within the larger team structure and has so far prevented major dissension and discord. Kerr took the team that Mark Jackson previously coached and helped to transform the team into champions. Credit is deserved for his part in successfully orchestrating the move of former All-Star Iguodala to a bench role and meshing Durant’s individual brilliance with the Warriors’ pre-existing, pass-happy offense. Kerr has missed significant time due to his botched spinal surgery, but if he can manage his health, count on Kerr to keep the Warriors a well-oiled machine.

2. Nick Young

Nick Young is a player that has had an up-and-down career. Credit Young for carving out a relatively successful career as a journeyman three-point shooting wing. Keeping Young focused and unlocking his full range of talents has been difficult for many organizations. The Warriors are up next and will give the 11th year pro an opportunity to do what he does best — knocking down three-pointers. As a career 37.6 percentage three-point shooter, Young will have a chance to get more open looks from distance than he has previously in his career. Like JaVale McGee, Young will also have a chance to transform his reputation if he proves to be a disciplined, effective contributor to a championship team.

3. Jordan Bell

What’s the perfect piece for a rebuilding team in need of young talent to build around? Jordan Bell, selected with the 38th pick in this year’s draft), is just that sort of player. The Warriors acquired the pick from the Chicago Bulls for cash consideration. The Bulls loss is the Warriors gain as hopes are high for the young talent from the University of Oregon. The Warriors will take their time with the 6-foot-9 forward and hope that he will build on and develop his defensive talents and one day be a reliable contributor for Golden State.

4. Shaun Livingston

Shaun Livingston is many years removed from the knee injury that nearly ended his professional career. While Livingston has played for nine teams in his career, he continues to be loyal to the Warriors, the team with which he has experienced the most success post-injury. Livingston continues to do whatever the team requires as he slides into either guard slot when needed and provides reliable production from the bench. Opposing backup point guards often get caught being posted up by the lengthy 6-foot-7 guard. Count Livingston as another essential cog who will do whatever it takes to help the Warriors win at all costs.

– James Blancarte

SALARY CAP 101

The Warriors are a major spender at $135.4 million in guaranteed salary, resulting in at least $32 million in luxury taxes. Golden State used its Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to sign Nick Young at $5.2 million for a season. Having re-signed on one-year deals, Zaza Pachulia, David West and JaVale McGee can block any trades.

Before November, the Warriors need to decide on 2018-19 team options for Kevon Looney and Damian Jones. Next summer, Kevin Durant can opt out again but now the team has his Early Bird Rights and the ability to give him a raise in the $35 million range. The Warriors seem willing to pay for a winner but for how long as luxury taxes grow progressively as the team gradually becomes a repeat offender?

– Eric Pincus

STRENGTHS

This team continues to have everything you could want in a modern NBA team. An electric point guard who is nearly unstoppable, a 3-and-D wing with a killer three-point shot, an unstoppable one-on-one player who can score from anywhere, a dominant and flexible defensive forward who can play center and a defensive wing who is a great glue guy. That’s just the five players that are normally used to close out games. The rest of the roster has a number of key contributors ready to do whatever the team needs. Oh, and they also have a great coach to keep everyone on the same page. With all the pieces a team could want, expect the Warriors to again push a possible record-breaking pace in the regular season on their way to the playoffs and likely the Finals.

– James Blancarte

WEAKNESSES

The easiest answer here is none. Eventually the injury bug might hit the Warriors but for now they have everything they could want to continue their excellent play. Perhaps some players may lose a sense of urgency in the regular season after breaking records and dominating the last few seasons, though that seems unlikely. On paper, this team is not afflicted by any major weaknesses.

– James Blancarte

THE BURNING QUESTION

Can anyone stop the Warriors?

Other teams continue to make moves to get better. On September 23, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded agreed to terms on a deal to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks. With that move, count the Thunder, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics and the Cavaliers as the biggest potential obstacles in the Warriors’ path to repeat. One of these teams may beat them, but the Warriors are the heavy favorites and the team most likely to win the championship next year.

– James Blancarte

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