Since I decided to take my talents into the media world, I have
a newfound appreciation for the craft. But one of the questions I
get asked most often is whether my attitude toward the media has
changed at all because of it, and it certainly has. Truth be told,
most NBA players don’t trust many members of the media, and I can’t
Back in 2007, I'd just landed in Boston, and with the roster
that was assembled over there, expectations were really high.
One day after practice, Doc Rivers called a team meeting and
singled me out. I was the only player on the squad who had won a
Doc knew that I knew what it felt like being under the
microscope, and he asked me to share some of my insight about
distractions and about what it takes to win.
In Miami, we had Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton and
Alonzo Mourning, and we were coached by Pat Riley. Anywhere any of
us went, people were trying to ask us questions and stick
microphones in our faces. Shaq had a well-publicized feud with Kobe
Bryant, and D-Wade was coming into his own as a young superstar.
There was a lot to talk about.
So in Boston, basically, my message to the team was to be
careful about what you say, because for the most part, drama is
what sells. That’s not unique to sports, but it sure applies in
Think about it: When you open up a newspaper or turn on the news
at night, so much of what is talked about is about negativity and
drama. The unfortunate reality is that the NBA media has become so
much about that too. Some people think that it’s worse today than
ever before. Today, most of the conversations and stories are less
about the game and more about free agency, contracts, trades or
people getting fired.
As a whole, we just seem to spend much less time talking about
and loving the game than we do talking about the dramatic
storylines that the game creates.
So that was my message to those guys in Boston when Doc kind of
put me on the spot. That’s what I said. Part of that perspective
came from an experience I had as a young second-year player in
Denver. There, I found myself in the middle of a huge controversy
because a reporter twisted my words and misrepresented my
I was drafted by Denver in 1999, and Dan Issel was my first
coach. Coach Issel had worked for Denver for a while and was the
coach of the 1994 Nuggets squad that became the first eighth-seeded
team to beat the No. 1 seed in the first round. Nobody talks about
it, but that team actually took Utah to seven games in the second
round before losing, so they overachieved for sure.
At this time, I was a young player coming into the league,
trying to establish myself and figuring out how to stick. I had
some good vets in my corner and developed some relationships that I
cherish to this day, but I learned the hard way to be careful not
only about what I said, but how I said it.
Sometimes, things can be misinterpreted, and truth be told, some
guys in the media would rather take something you said and put a
controversial twist to it than to double-check with you to make
sure you meant what you said.
In some ways, it’s like they’re out to get you.
So, the Nuggets made the playoffs in 1994 (where they scored the
upset over Seattle) and then in 1995. They missed the playoffs the
next four years, and then, I was drafted. Coach Issel came
back to the bench that same year. We missed the playoffs my rookie
year, so the franchise was trying to get back there as soon as we
We had some proud veterans and guys who were competitors on the
team, and those kind of guys don’t really have the patience for
rebuilding. As an older veteran, if you spend a few years on a
non-playoff team, the next thing you know, you might be out of the
My second year in the league was the 2000-01 season, and we
started 10-8, but we went out east on a road trip and lost all four
games. Nobody was happy.
Suddenly, we were 10-12 and, coincidentally, were going back
home to play the Miami Heat.
Typically, after a long road trip, a coach would give the
players a day off, even if they had a bad trip. At the end of the
day, guys need time to regroup, rest and collect their thoughts,
but Coach Issel had other ideas.
Coach made some comments in the media that were critical of some
of our vets, and it rubbed some guys the wrong way. But bigger than
that was the fact that, as a team, we were fatigued.
Today, we’re so much smarter about sports science and helping
athletes take care of their bodies. The league has reduced
back-to-back games, for example. When I was in the league, we often
had to play four games in five nights, and during the lockout
season, every team had at least one situation where they had to
play three games in three nights.
In Denver that season, we played 16 games in November, which
means on average, we played more than one game every two nights. We
played three games the first four nights of the season and the
trend continued. We were exhausted by the time we left for our
first long Eastern road trip of the season, and to make matters
even worse, we were playing all four games in five nights. We had a
back-to-back in Miami and Orlando, a day off, then another
back-to-back in New York and Boston.
So when Coach Issel scheduled practice the day after we returned
to Denver, some of the veterans on the team suggested that we take
a stand and tell coach we needed some rest — we weren’t going to be
able to break the losing streak if we were too tired to perform
come game time.
Now, we’re going back 20 years, so I can’t directly quote what I
said to the reporter who asked a few questions before our first
game back after the road trip. But I know for sure that, in
context, I never said that we, as the players, were going to
boycott that first game and refused to play. I never meant to
suggest that we, as the players, were turning our backs on Coach
First of all, I’d never do that, and second, I was a second-year
player! Who was I to be the voice of the team?
Regardless, that’s exactly what was written in the paper that
will remain nameless.
Next thing I know, I’m the center of attention. All over the
mainstream news across the country, people were talking about the
Nuggets players and how we’re planning to boycott games and all
kind of crazy stuff. And to make matters even worse, I’m the one
that everyone is looking to with their questions, because I was the
“money quote” in the story that ended up becoming a national
Obviously, our veteran players had my back and spoke to the
media themselves and clarified the team’s position, but I’ll tell
you, as a second-year player, that was a lesson learned.
Now, to be fair, I’ll say that — especially back in those days —
a lot of us players didn’t really have the same kind of education
and savvy when it came to how to approach certain questions and how
to choose our words wisely. What was worse back then, too, was the
fact that there was no social media and no way for players to
control their own messaging and get their own words
In a way, we had to rely on the media to get our thoughts and
messages out to fans, and that just wasn’t ideal, because we didn’t
necessarily have the same goals as those who were spreading our
So in a nutshell, I’d say that’s the answer to the question. A
lot of players (and coaches, too) don’t like speaking in public
because we feel that a lot of news organizations are more concerned
with making headlines than reporting accurate facts.
At least today, with social media and the internet, teams can
control their own messages, and players can, too. But for a lot of
players, me included back in my day, there was a distrust for
reporters that still exists today.
That was the experience I shared with Doc and my Celtics
teammates, and I carried that entire experience in Denver with me
for the rest of my career. I wasn’t treated fairly, and I think
reporters who I interacted with at each of my other stops —
including in Boston, New Orleans and Indiana — paid some of the
price for that.
It’s ironic now that I work in the media, but having been on
both sides of the equation, I think I’m smarter for it.
When I look back on my time in Boston, as I’ve written before, I
wish it could’ve lasted longer. But I have some fond memories, and
even more so, a hilarious observation.
On the 2008 team, we didn’t really trust reporters or any of the
media, to be honest. We didn’t really care too much for making
headlines or getting any attention. We just wanted to come
together, focus and play the game at a high level.
But when you look back at the roster, so many of us went on to
work for media companies.
Big Kendrick Perkins is doing his thing at ESPN, and he’s become
one of their biggest basketball voices. Paul Pierce did some great
work there for a while too.
I think everyone who watches TNT remembers that Kevin Garnett
had “Area 21” on Inside the NBA, and Glen “Big Baby” Davis
was a regular on his segment.
Brian Scalabrine is doing color commentary for the Celtics, and
even Scot Pollard has found a home in front of the camera. He’s
done everything from sports television work to radio play-by-play.
He was even a contestant on Survivor a few years ago.
And me? I’m enjoying life at an assistant coach
on Tina Thompson’s staff at the University of Virginia. But I’m
obviously enjoying working in the media, as well.
Funny how life can sometimes come full circle. I’m enjoying the
view from this side of the fence, but when current and former
players express negative attitudes toward the media and reporters,
I can certainly understand why.
Maybe I can be a part of the solution, because one thing is for
sure: I can understand why today’s players feel the way they feel.
I lived through a helluva experience in Denver.