BOSTON — New Orleans Pelicans goaltender CJ McCollum, the new president of the National Basketball Players Association, appeared in Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.
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 NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio – waited in the hallway in the locker room aisle to allow traffic to calm before leaving TD Garden.
Draymond Green came out of the locker room and was on his way to his post-match press conference, but saw McCollum and stopped for a brief chat that ended in classic fashion.
McCollum, a journalism student, felt responsible to inform Green of his prediction for the final in person rather than the striker being surprised to learn of McCollum’s stance on national television.
As onlookers in the middle of the conversation, McCollum and Green gave Yahoo Sports permission to post the details of their conversation.
“I have to tell you this. I picked Boston to win Game 3, I picked you to win Game 4. But ultimately I have the Celtics winning the Finals,” McCollum told Green. “I just want you to hear it from me before you hear me say it on TV.”
Green, without hesitation, replied, “That’s good. These Celtics will always be ringless, just like you. Respect.”
Then Green left with a smirk.
“Damn, that was a good ass comeback,” McCollum thought to himself as he looked at Green mosey. “But, hey, he heard it from me.”
Whether or not McCollum is right is irrelevant. He was man enough and took his side job seriously enough to find it necessary to approach a very confident person and tell them something that Green probably didn’t like to hear at the time.
His approach is respected by the players and is an honorable method among his new part-time peers.
“With CJ last night, I appreciate it because it’s something that people these days don’t do,” Green told Yahoo Sports. “I am also a talker. I will always have something to say in return. It comes out naturally like that. That’s how I’m made up. I always have something fast. That’s how my mind works. But I think CJ is amazing. I remember 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 it rewarded with his contract with ESPN, I think it’s amazing for him. I think it’s amazing for the league.
One of the fundamental guidelines in the coverage of professional sports is that when a journalist produces content, in print, on television or otherwise, that is deemed negative or controversial in relation to the subject, he must be present at training. or at games the next day to display a level of responsibility.
While players may disapprove and disagree with the substance of the content, they often respect the reporter showing up and being available for further dialogue, and sometimes even cursing sessions.
But the relatively new sector of dual employment as active gamer and active media analyst can complicate matters within the gaming fraternity.
Many players believe there are codes that should never be broken and internal conversations that should never be discussed, even if anonymity is granted.
Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem took issue with Green’s claim that Boston would knock them out and make the NBA Finals, saying Green “broke the code.” His teammate PJ Tucker agreed.
Green is signed with TNT as an NBA analyst.
Many have argued that the Heat have overreacted, but what really matters is what current players think of current players making predictions and expressing critical opinions of their peers.
“The way I see the dynamic is there’s a difference between being a critic and being a hater,” Green told Yahoo Sports. “You see a lot of situations where former players hate. As a very critical person, I think it’s understanding critical analysis and hating, because those lines can fade quickly because at the end of the day, these are the guys you are competing with.
“And so when you are critical, you have to have knowledge and give 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 was drawn 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. Either way, I think it’s about understanding what you’re saying, understanding the game, and then introducing it to people instead of just throwing shit out there.
McCollum demonstrated that he paid attention to those journalism courses at Lehigh University. Green may not have liked McCollum’s message, but as an NBA player and analyst, he respected the approach.
Only time will tell how this dynamic forms over the long term.
“I think in the media the truth has been lost. No one is telling the truth anymore. And I think the most important thing, when I say ‘new media’, is guys telling the truth again, and that’s important for 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 that may not be entirely true. And I think the players push back the lies. You see JJ Redick on ESPN everyday telling this truth and killing these false narratives that surround this game.
“So I didn’t take CJ’s comment last night as personal at all. It’s just him talking shit, me talking shit and we keep moving forward. There’s not much left honesty in this business. And I think the players bring it back like CJ, like me, like JJ Redick, who just retired two months ago and Pat Beverley. I think what the players bring back to that is the truth. I love it.”