Warriors’ Draymond Green sounds like media he decries

The day before Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Draymond Green spent a minute or so of his news conference complaining about one of his favorite hobbyhorses: Sports blogging just isn’t as good as it used to be.

ClutchPoints writer Tomer Azarly asked the Warriors forward about Klay Thompson’s habit of YouTube “Game 6 Klay” to bust out of shooting slumps. Before Green answered the question, he went out of his way to compliment Azarly on his sterling journalistic ethics.

“I saw last night where you pointed out … that there was a question I was asked about Kevin Durant, and that’s why I mentioned him,” Green said. “So I want to say thank you for your honesty and for your duty to this job. I know the world that we live in now is all about clickbait, and people will cut the question off so that they can try to make it appear as if I’m just up here talking about Kevin Durant like I don’t have anything else better to do in my life. So I want to say I appreciate you — just upholding the integrity of media. When I speak about the ‘new media,’ that’s what I’m speaking about. The integrity of this business has been lost.”

Green is right about the particular situation he’s talking about. As Azarly pointed out earlier this week, Bleacher Report (among others) did indeed post a video of Green talking about Durant stripped of any context.

Watching Green complain about “clickbait” and “new media” and “integrity of media,” though, I had one thought: I’ve heard this before.

He sounds like Buzz Bissinger way back in 2008, when the “Friday Night Lights” author confronted founding Deadspin editor Will Leitch on Bob Costas’ HBO show. “I think that blogs are dedicated to cruelty, they’re dedicated to journalistic dishonesty, they’re dedicated to speed,” Bissinger said, among many other things. Reading off headlines he found distasteful, Bissinger ripped into Deadspin specifically and blogging generally. “I care about the written word and I care about reporting,” he later huffed to the New York Times. “The writing on most blogs is terrible.”

This was a big deal at the time, covered by every blog and most major national outlets, as impossible as that is to imagine in 2022. Blogs were a new and exciting thing then. But that was so long ago that the site that Bissinger was assailing has since collapsed under corporate mismanagement, went dark for a year, and was re-staffed by a group simultaneously all producing the worst work of their careers. Call it Havana-write-too-many-blogs Syndrome.

Delightfully, while most of that bucaneering era of sports bloggers have doddered into newspapering or MAGA or television or sobriety — Leitch himself, now a part-time employee of Major League Baseball, wrote a column earlier this week defending a senile racist — Bissinger has swerved the other way, going through a sexual awakening that was chronicled in an HBO documentary. This is all to say that Draymond’s complaints about “new” media are in fact very, very, old.

I don’t blame Green for being a decade late to the discourse. While some of us were staring at computer screens, he was busy building a Hall of Fame NBA career, kicking groins, starting a family, things of that nature. But I do blame him for something else.

As Green moves into the twilight phase of his playing career, he’s made reforming sports media something of a crusade. His primary complaint is that the locker room and press conference settings doesn’t give readers the true picture of what’s going on with athletes, that reporters ask leading questions and then twist the answers to rile up audiences. As the KD-BR dustup shows, that does happen. But there are thoughtful print writers and clout-chasing bloggers and hacks in old media and brilliant basketbloggers. All sportswriting can just be judged on its own merits now, as it has been for a while. Again, the blogging situation has been so thoroughly decided that ClutchPoints, basically an AI Instagram account, is credentialed at the NBA Finals.

The NBA has been the last major league to let reporters back in locker rooms since the pandemic started; Green wants to keep them out. (Guess who disagrees.) As part of his project to replace the hidebound sports media, Green has partnered with obscure upstarts Colin Cowherd and TNT to provide his unfiltered views. “The Draymond Green Show” podcast often records right after games, and it’s in that setting that the limits of his critique become clear.

Draymond’s complaint about clickbait echoes a similar one from his legacy media colleagues: those damn aggregators take their podcast comments out of context. Green’s solution is to make his podcast so flat that there’s nothing to aggregate, no bait to click.

His recap of the Warriors’ Game 1 loss was filler, containing nothing you couldn’t get by scanning Twitter and blogs. (This is not to say it was a hard listen; Green is a natural and thoughtful talker.) Surely, the Game 2 recap would be more interesting: He had just sparked his team to a series-tying win and narrowly avoided ejection in a vintage Draymond incident. Here’s what he had to say on the podcast about the tie-up with Jaylen Brown that Celtics fans are still crying about:

“Nobody’s paying to watch this stuff to see guys get thrown out of the game and you not see the game you want to watch. … Yes, if there is something egregious then I’m going to get thrown out, as we know . Nobody’s sparing me, nor do I expect to get spared, nor do I want to be spared. But if it’s something that’s not egregious, I probably shouldn’t get thrown out of the game. … I had no clue that people thought I was even that close to being thrown out, because I don’t play the game worried about getting thrown out or not.”

How is that any different or more nuanced than what he said on SportsCenter after the game? Draymond is brilliant — he doesn’t need 10 minutes to say what can be clearly communicated in 30 seconds. The most powerful indictment he made of the NBA and how it’s covered took him about two minutes to get across on a Zoom call in February.

Green is clearly on a journey to media superstardom. Already, his appearances on live TV are better than just about any basketball analysis that airs on ESPN. (It’s not a coincidence that the Worldwide Leader has been rushing active players onto its talk shows this spring, with sometimes entertaining results.) On that journey, hopefully he’ll find out what takes us lesser media minds years to get drilled in our heads: Shorter is almost always better. Shorter does not mean shaving necessary context or information; Azarly was able to fit his clarification into a tweet, even as the initial clip about Durant. Green’s beef shouldn’t be with “new media,” but incompetence at any age.

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