20 Second Timeout is the place to find the best analysis and commentary about the NBA.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Press Conference Follies

Imagine that the San Antonio Spurs, who are 31-44 this season, just lost a game by 18 points. This is the Spurs' third straight losing season, and they have not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2017. Coach Gregg Popovich is being interviewed at the post-game press conference, and a local reporter who regularly covers the team asks him, "What changes going forward?" 

What kind of answer would you expect from Popovich?

Suppose that Popovich replied, "Nothing man, nothing."

Then, our hypothetical reporter asked, "Why is that?" 

Suppose that Popovich calmly replied, "Because it doesn't. What does it change? We've still got games to play. Other teams still have got games to play. We still have got to play teams that are above us in the Play-In. Don't really change much. What do you think should change?"

Then, our hypothetical reporter said, "Winning."

How would you expect Popovich to answer that retort? Suppose that Popovich rolled his eyes, and calmly said, "OK, that's obvious. And what do you think should change?" 

Then, our hypothetical reporter said, "Winning. Winning games, playing hard. You asked a question, I gave you an answer."

Suppose that Popovich then got up to leave the press conference, and on his way out he said, "That's cool. Do you have the answer for winning?"

Then, our hypothetical reporter said, "I am not out there playing." The reporter then admitted that he did not have the answer for winning, and Popovich stated that he is just one member of the team, so he does not have the answer, either. Popovich then hugged the reporter and left the press conference.

Neither man raised his voice, or acted in a threatening manner. If you wrote the headline for an article describing the above interaction, would you describe it as "heated" or as an "altercation"? 

The exchange described above happened last night, word for word--but the person being asked the questions was Russell Westbrook, not Gregg Popovich. 

Unlike Popovich, Westbrook does not verbally attack reporters--but Westbrook does ask reporters to answer questions: that is Westbrook's way of showing that the question he was just asked was not particularly smart or insightful. The reporter interviewing Westbrook was Broderick Turner, and it is interesting how quickly Turner became defensive after Westbrook turned the spotlight on him. Turner proved that he asked a question that was so vague that any answer--or no answer--would have been appropriate. That was Westbrook's point, which is why he said, "That's obvious."

Was Turner asking Westbrook's opinion about roster composition, about coaching, about matchups, about effort level? We don't know, because Turner does not know. That is why all he could do after Westbrook asked him the same question was lamely answer, "Winning." Imagine if Westbrook had answered Turner's question by saying, "Winning." 

It is fascinating to watch media members in action, to watch how they respond to being challenged, and then to watch how their fellow media members rush in to bash Westbrook while defending their own. Skip "Clueless" said that he would not have been able to contain himself if Westbrook had answered him that way. What would he have done? Would he have slapped Westbrook in the face? Would he have called Westbrook a "clever" name like "Westbrick"? I generally refrain from name-calling, but I make an exception for "Clueless" and for "Screamin' A" Smith, because those guys get paid a lot of money for making fun of other people's names so they more than deserve a dose of their own medicine. At least Westbrook is an all-time great at his chosen profession; "Clueless" and "Screamin' A" are buffoons.

Turner's question is far from the worst or dumbest one that I have heard in an NBA press conference, because I have had the misfortune of hearing many stupid questions, but Turner's question was lazy. What kind of article was he planning to write, based on the question he asked? It sounds like he just wanted some filler material. If he really wanted to know specifically what Westbrook thinks about the Lakers, then he would have asked a specific question. Instead, Turner asked a variation of the ubiquitous "Talk about" question; lazy reporters often say, "Talk about...," which of course is not even a question. "Talk about tonight's game" is what passes for journalism today, as is "What changes going forward?"

I don't know Turner, and from what I've seen of his work he is far from the NBA's worst beat reporter, but this notion that Westbrook somehow violated protocol or attacked Turner is ridiculous. Turner asked a lazy question, Westbrook turned the question around on Turner, and at the end the two men hugged it out. It takes a fevered--or devious--imagination to twist this into an excuse to attack Westbrook.

If you watch Westbrook's press conferences live and do not base your opinions on how other people describe his press conferences, you will see that Westbrook is proud, but he is also respectful when he is treated respectfully, and he refuses to throw his teammates or coaches under the bus. If a reporter asks Westbrook a lazy or stupid question, Westbrook does not play along and give a boring, cliche-filled answer; Westbrook challenges the reporter. Reporters do not like being challenged, but that does not mean that Westbrook is wrong to challenge them. 

The notion that Westbrook cannot handle being in a major media market is ridiculous; he is handling it just fine, in the same way that he has always handled it. What Westbrook cannot handle is the way that General Manager/Coach/Team Captain/P.R. Director/Self-Proclaimed Greatest Player of All-Time LeBron James is throwing everyone else under the bus while he limps his way toward Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time regular season scoring record. The other thing that Westbrook cannot handle is that most media members are committed to protecting James at all costs, which means that Westbrook has become the convenient scapegoat for the Lakers' disastrous season.

Labels: , , , , , ,

posted by David Friedman @ 9:59 PM



Post a Comment

<< Home