NBA Trades in Times of Twit­ter & In­sta­gram Me­dia and fans play de­tec­tives, and so­cial me­dia — where truth and ru­mour are one — is where all the clues seem to be

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Mike Vorkunov

While the Knicks prac­ticed on Wed­nes­day after­noon, a day be­fore the NBA’s player trade dead­line, Der­rick Rose stood on the side and watched dur­ing the part that was open to the news me­dia. It was a con­spic­u­ous given­thetim­ing.Whenaplay­eren­meshedin traderu­mours—asRose­has­been—does­not par­tic­i­pate, it fu­els spec­u­la­tion, even if the de­vel­op­ment has noth­ing to do with a trade.

Rose left the work­out with­out speak­ing to re­porters,bu­taKnicksspokesman­saidRose had prac­ticed for all but the fi­nal min­utes. His­ab­senceattheend­ofthe­ses­sion,theteam rep­re­sen­ta­tive said, was cir­cum­stan­tial.

Still,inthe­hourslead­ing­tothedead­line,as the Knicks pre­pared to re­sume their sea­son Thurs­day night against the Cava­liers, many were scru­ti­n­is­ing ev­ery move for signs of an im­pend­ing deal. The vast NBA uni­verse be- comes a game of Clue: Which team is trad­ing whom to where, and for what?

Nor­mally in­nocu­ous ac­tions can gain out­size im­por­tance. Was Rose’s in­ac­tiv­ity a sig­nal? What about the fact that Tim­ber­wolves point guard Ricky Ru­bio — who could po­ten­tially be in­volved in a trade for Rose — was fol­low­ing Kristaps Porzingis on Twit­ter? Ru­bio fol­lows only 236 peo­ple, and Porzingis was his lat­est ad­di­tion.

So what to be­lieve when so­cial me­dia is just a de­coder ring with no in­struc­tions?

“Ev­ery­body is just look­ing for some­thing,” Brandon Jen­nings of the Knicks said. “First of all, play­ers are not go­ing to say any­thing any­way if it is some­thing. I think it’s just fun be­cause you can mess around with peo­ple.” On Mon­day night, Carmelo An­thony was caught in the tempest af­ter an emoji and a click on In­sta­gram set fans to the­o­ris­ing about a pos­si­ble new des­ti­na­tion for him. First, the Celtics’ team ac­count was caught fol­low­ing An­thony on In­sta­gram, and then the All-Star guard Isa­iah Thomas tweeted an emoji of a pair of eyes that rus­tled up more spec­u­la­tion.

Forty-six min­utes later, the Celtics as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager Mike Zar­ren posted onTwit­terthathe­hadsud­denly­been­del­uged by queries about whether a trade was im­mi­nent. “Life in 2017,” he wrote. Amid all this mad­ness, An­thony in­sisted that he was still at ease. He has been a steady sub­ject of trade ru­mours for a month, with the Celtics and the Clip­pers said to be his main suit­ors, but he re­mained a Knick less than 24 hours be­fore the dead­line.

That, how­ever, will do lit­tle to stop the Twit­ter and In­sta­gram de­tec­tives from try­ing to sniff out any news. An­thony says he ig­nores the so­cial me­dia churn. Oth­ers are more will­ing to play the game. Shortly af­ter Thomas posted his eye­ball emoji, Jen­nings shared the same thing on Twit­ter, know­ing it would cause a stir (though he later deleted it). When Pis­tons player An­dre Drum­mond did it too, it had be­come a meme.

While Jen­nings took a so­cial me­dia respite over the last few days af­ter re­ceiv­ing what he called a few “weird” Twit­ter mes­sages from Knicks fans, he said, he will soon re­turn to play­fully an­tag­o­nis­ing his fol­low­ers. He knows Twit­ter wields power around the trade dead­line.

“I’m go­ing to do it again to­day with the eyes,” Jen­nings said. “I’m go­ing to do it again.” Know­ing that fans and the news me­dia alike will make ev­ery ef­fort to de­code the mes­sage, he added, “I might just start fol­low­ing ev­ery other team and play­ers.”

The trade dead­line passed 3pm ET (4.30am in In­dia) on Thurs­day.

Nor­mally in­nocu­ous ac­tions can gain out­size im­por­tance

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