As an Indiana Pacers fan, I’ve had the pleasure of watching the national NBA media cover Indiana basketball with such complete lack of foreknowledge about the team that you’d be forgiven for thinking that nobody on national television was aware that Indiana even had a team until about Game 5 of last year’s first round of the playoffs.
Hastily assembled hot takes rooted mainly in “quick scan of Basketball Reference or NBA.com in order to find out who’s kinda sorta good” were and are de rigueur, and if anyone who wasn’t already a Magic or Thunder fan before 2017 knew who Victor Oladipo was, they deserved a cookie for paying attention (I’ll admit, I knew of Oladipo mainly because I was roommates with a Michigan alum and watched a lot of Big Ten basketball in 2013.)
National media are pretty good at covering teams that are on ESPN and TNT all the time. You don’t get the “welcome, glad you noticed us, have you tried the local food favorite, maybe seen the sights while you’ve been in town?” (Tenderloin sandwich. You haven’t been to Indianapolis until you’ve enjoyed one. They’re amazing.)
But outside of the seven or eight cities (what, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Houston, and Oklahoma City? You guys having visa problems getting to Canada?) that get frequent national media visits, every city is Indianapolis and every team the Pacers in terms of the national media knowing and understanding the local teams.
Like, for example, a certain national media guy with a breakfast highlight column calling E’Twaun Moore a “star” in a certain widely-read (thanks @SnottieDrippen on Twitter for the signal boost) satirical piece about Anthony Davis?
Yeah, that was satire, the whole “trade the Brow to Indiana and Hinkie the place” thing. I hope you didn’t think I was serious.
Anyway, that came from Moore’s name coming up a few times in November when he scored 30 points three times in the space of a week and a half, and in my mental NBA notepad, that meant Moore was good.
Moore isn’t good—he was averaging 16.9 points per game on November 21 and has averaged just 9.1 since then. To call him a star even by the extremely loose definition of the term required of a fourth option in an offense was probably a stretch in November, definitely a stretch by four days after Christmas (even if Moore did score 21 the night that piece went up), and utter go-home-you’re-drunk insanity now.
Take a wild guess how many Pelicans games I’ve watched on League Pass this year.
(no, it’s not zero. One plus the fourth quarter of a game that had gotten competitive.)
Like most national NBA people, I only have a certain number of hours in my day to watch games. And as a Pacers fan, I’m going to watch Indiana basketball first, then national-media games involving teams the Pacers might have to face in the playoffs, then whatever late game looks good—which this year has mainly involved the Kings, Clippers, and Warriors.
I also get a fair bit of check-this-out from NBA Twitter, which is how I’ve seen so much of Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.
Oddly enough, it was Pace and Space’s own deputy emeritus Zach d’Arbeloff who clued me in to just how far off base my Moore take was (I will die on Julius Randle Hill, Zach—no way is he anything less than a legit quality third option on a good team, and he’s on the Guys Fox Likes Team roster.)
Anyway, when someone whose opinion I trust (and who, since he’s a Celtics fan, has no doubt had an eye on Anthony Davis and all things Pelicans-related during the season) chirps that I’m “separated from reality” (his words, not mine), that’s going to send me to the game logs, if for no other reason than to try and figure out how I arrived at my wrong opinion in the first place (like I said, three 30+ games in a week and a half, which got his name into a few Breakfast Specials and probably cemented the idea in my head that Moore was better than he in fact is.)
I suspect this is true for a lot of national NBA guys, and I doubly suspect that for those of us who are not drawing 40-hour paychecks to watch NBA and talk NBA and live and breathe NBA (I love basketball, but I also love eating food and not dying of exposure from sleeping outdoors in the wintertime, and going on a date once in awhile is nice too, plus I’ve got a side gig writing about video games and a food project launching in February), this is true as well:
We can only follow so many teams, and in a 30-team league, that means we’re relying on incomplete information and ideas that we form and never really think to question even as they’re overtaken by events.
You can live and breathe one team (I could, if you put me on the spot, name all 15 members of Indiana’s extended roster). You can certainly watch SportsCenter or follow NBA Twitter and know what the national conversation is about in terms of the top stories. And you can write a breakfast highlight column where stars on all 30 teams perform and make names for themselves, from the Bucks on down to the Cavaliers, and know who the best players are night after night.
But man, it is hard, especially on a deadline, to know everything about everything, and that’s how national media people don’t get Pacers basketball and how a breakfast highlight columnist made a fool of himself talking about the Pelicans in a satirical piece meant to draw a few clicks for fun from a Midwestern fanbase.
Don’t let anyone tell you writing is easy.
And don’t ever take one person’s views—not even mine—as gospel truth.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go brace myself to watch Klay Thompson drop 70 on the Pacers tonight.