John Carroll was the head coach at Duquesne for six years, and an assistant coach in the NBA for nine—including a 36-game stint as interim head coach for the Celtics in 2004. He's now sharing his expertise for Scouts Inc., which was purchased by ESPN in 2006. Since then Carroll's scouting reports have appeared regularly on ESPN.com, largely behind their Insider paywall.
Today Carroll took a look at the upcoming Spurs-Clippers series. (If you don't have Insider, the whole thing can be viewed here.) It's uncannily similar to a pair of posts made on the message board SpursTalk.com, all from user "Timvp." The posts were published Sunday and Monday, Carroll's column just before noon today.
A few examples:
In the regular season, the Clippers played at a pace of 91.8 possessions per game. To beat the Grizzlies, they dropped that number to under 90. The Spurs, conversely, averaged 95.1 possessions per game and they've played at the league's fastest pace so far in the playoffs. However, it's going to be next to impossible to speed up this series with Paul at the helm of the Clippers. And that's unfortunate because the Spurs have lost only one time since Feb. 22 in games that have had at least 95 possessions.
During the regular season the Clippers averaged 91.8 possessions per game. In order to defeat the Grizzlies the Clippers slowed the pace down even more, with less than 90 possessions per game. The Spurs on the other hand averaged 95.1 possessions in the first round of the playoffs versus the Jazz. However, they will struggle to speed up the pace of the game with Chris Paul in the game. The Spurs have lost only one time since late February when they had at least 95 possessions in a game, so it is imperative that the Clippers slow the pace of each and every game in this series.
Against almost every team in the NBA, the Spurs have a decided advantage when it comes to depth; San Antonio rolls ten deep and there's nary a letdown when the bench unit is on the court. Keyword: Almost. The Clippers very well could be the only exception to that statement still alive in the championship race. They too have ten players who can contribute on a nightly basis. In Game 7 against the Grizzlies, their bench of Eric Bledsoe, Mo Williams, Nick Young, Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin basically won the game by playing remarkably well down the stretch.
Almost every time the Spurs took the court this season they had an advantage with their team's depth. They can put ten players on the court and not worry about a letdown of production. However the Clippers are the one team that match the Spurs depth and in a series where the Clippers are coming in banged up and somewhat fatigued it will be extremely important that their bench delivers. The Clippers have ten players that they can throw on the court who can contribute. This was extremely obvious in their Game 7 against Memphis on Sunday when along with Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe, Mo Williams, Nick Young, Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin won the game for the Clippers in the fourth quarter.
Not only do the Spurs run for easy buckets, they run to create mismatches that they can then exploit in their early-offense sets. The bad news is that the Clippers are going to splash some cold water on that strategy. Not only are they the slowest paced team still alive in the playoffs, Paul is without question the game's best player at controlling the pace of games.
The Spurs want to get out and run for easy baskets. They were ranked 10th in the NBA this season scoring 13.7 points in transition. They like to create early opportunities for themselves that they can exploit. This is extremely important in the playoffs where the ability to score in the half court is minimized. The problem for the Spurs in this series is that the Clippers are the slowest paced team still left in the playoffs. Chris Paul has the ability to control the pace of games and not allow the Spurs to play up and down.
There's quite a few more examples, helpfully collected at SpursTalk. Some are less egregious than others, but Carroll's column shares the same ideas, statistics, and phrasing too many times for it to be anything but wholesale plagiarism, with a few words changed here and there.
"If Carroll would have asked for permission, I wouldn't have had any problem with him using the content," says LJ Ellis, who posts as Timvp. "But as it played out, it's shady, to say the least."
Ellis says he was honored that a professional scouting writer would find his work good enough to reproduce, but was ticked off to see it in the Insider section. "To take freely available content and put it behind a paywall without any attribution isn't cool."
It's not clear what sort of editorial independence Scouts Inc. has from ESPN, or the publishing process for Scouts Inc.-branded content. We've touched base with ESPN for comment. To be fair, they only got a half-hour's heads up, so we're still waiting on a statement and we'll update when we get it.
Update, 11 p.m.: The statement from ESPN: "We have removed the story while we review the situation."