Chris Paul is upset? Consider the source

Harry How

ESPN reports that Chris Paul is upset with the Clippers organization because he is being blamed for the firing of Vinny Del Negro.

Ermahgerd! Chris Paul is mad at the Clippers. It's a disaster of Biblical proportions!

Or maybe there's been an overreaction somewhere along the line. Is that possible?

Let's walk this back a bit, shall we. Chris Broussard of ESPN reports that Paul is "upset with the Los Angeles Clippers organization because he is being widely blamed for the firing of Vinny Del Negro." This is of course according to an unnamed source.

The one and only piece of information that anyone anywhere can point to as the "throwing Paul under the bus" moment is an interview that Donald Sterling gave to T.J. Simers of the L.A. Times after Del Negro was fired. In it, Sterling spews such heinous anti-Paul venom as "I liked working with Vinny Del Negro" and "this is a player's league" and "you have to make the players happy."

Were Sterling's comments tone-deaf? Of course they were. He's never NOT been tone-deaf -- he's so tone-deaf, he doesn't even know what tone is. He's a freakin' Schoenberg symphony of atonality. The fact that the only reporter in the world he talks to is Simers of course exacerbates the problem. Simers' only journalistic goal is to cause trouble -- and when Sterling opens his mouth, trouble is never far behind.

But the truth is that Sterling's comments weren't really that bad -- Simers of course put words in his mouth, and DTS wasn't savvy enough to spit them out, but that's more or less what you would expect in this situation. But if "Chris Paul is mad at the Clippers organization" in reality has a genesis of "Chris Paul is mad that Donald Sterling said something insensitive" then is this really news?

Before Del Negro was fired, Paul had one and only one reason not to sign with the Clippers: because Sterling is a bad owner. This massive new problem doesn't change the calculus one iota. Sterling is still a bad owner, and the things he said to Simers don't come close to making his bad owner Top 10.

By the way, Paul would have been blamed for Del Negro's firing, with or without Sterling's comments. Simers obviously went into his discussion with Sterling with the intent of writing that story -- Sterling just helped him a bit (not even that much, really). This is how the echo chamber works. The media screams that Del Negro has to be fired because he's a bad coach. Then when he's fired, they blame the star player. Then they report on how the star player is upset that he's being blamed. It's a perpetual motion machine of new posts for ESPN.com.

So who is over-reacting? Is it Paul? Is it Broussard's "source"? Or is it, maybe, perhaps, the media?

From the NBA Finals through mid-July, ESPN has two NBA topics to cover: the draft and free agency. There are exactly two free agents of any real import this summer, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. Paul is going to re-sign with the Clippers and everyone knows it -- but that doesn't generate a lot of page views and doesn't make very good TV.

Notice that Broussard's story has several of his source's statements about Paul's anger in quotation marks. But the money quote, the one thing ESPN desperately wants to get out there?

The source conceded that Paul's anger could lead him to look elsewhere.

No quotation marks on that bad boy. It's Broussard's words, put in an anonymous source's mouth -- with the word "could" tossed in for good measure. That is some pretty spacious wiggle room. I'm guessing, if the source had actually said something juicy, Broussard would have quoted it.

So some tone deaf comments from Sterling in a hack T.J. Simers column that drives a narrative that ESPN wants to be a story is now a story. Knock me over with a feather.

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