Let’s say you had a car—like, just hypothetically, let’s say you had an extremely rare 7-foot-3 Latvian car that could shoot three-pointers and block shots and run the floor like a much smaller and nimbler car—but you wanted to trade it for a cooler car. Hell, let’s say you’re a big dumb idiot, and you wanted to trade your very cool car for a less cool car that, at its very best, mostly is just a shittier version of the car you’ve already got, for no good reason whatsoever. In any case, you’ve got a car, and you don’t just want to dump it; you want to get something in return for it. You want to get as much as you can in return for it.
How do you talk about your car to potential buyers, in these circumstances? Probably, if you are not a doofus, you try to convince them that your car is extremely cool and good. “Runs like a beaut!” you say. “Gets good gas mileage, too! And you wanna talk about a sound system, hoo boy. It really cranks the tuneage!” You can adjust the phrasing however you like, but you get the point, here: If you are trying to get as much as you can in return for your car, you must maximize its attractiveness. You must make your car seem, convincingly, like a good-ass car. That way you can ask for a lot in return for it.
New York Knicks president Phil Jackson has a car, so to speak. He has a 21-year-old budding basketball superstar, Kristaps Porzingis. For whatever assuredly dumb reasons, he would like to trade away this very cool and exciting young player. Theoretically, a person seeking to trade away such a valuable player would hope to get a huge haul in return. Probably he would like to get one of the top draft choices in tonight’s draft in return. Those are rare and hard to get.
But whereas you, in your wisdom, might think to maximize the appeal of your car by talking it up, Phil Jackson has a different priority. As an egomaniac, his priority is to launder this obviously foolish and self-destructive course of action in the eyes of the media, so that it is not seen to contradict too severely the image he has spent the past 25 years working to construct: The image of a wise basketball sage possessing infinite hoops discernment. He is not concerned with convincing potential buyers to offer the most possible in return for his car. He is concerned with what the guy standing over by the vending machine thinks about his choice to sell. So, he is trashing the car. This car sucks, therefore I am smart to get rid of it.
This was the substance of the article Jackson mouthpiece Charley Rosen published on FanRag Sports earlier this week, in which he argued the Knicks should trade Porzingis away for such flimsy reasons as (paraphrasing): “Sometimes he jumps at pump-fakes,” and “He is not all that great at styles of play that have been outmoded and largely irrelevant for almost as long as he has been alive,” and “Free agency exists.” Leave aside that these are stupid and unpersuasive arguments in favor of trading away a 7-foot-3 21-year-old who can shoot threes and block shots, who runs the floor like a much smaller and nimbler player, who is the most beloved Knicks player in years and years. Publicizing your reasons for wanting to trade that player... is stupid! Publicizing your desire to trade that player at all... is stupid!
What casts this stupidity into extra-sharp relief is, Jackson is asking a lot for Porzingis. He’s smart enough to know Porzingis has value out the ass, but not smart enough to realize he might have a better chance of cashing in that value if he were not currently telling the world Porzingis is injury-prone, suspect in the post and in the paint, and insubordinate, and that the Knicks therefore are desperate to get rid of him.
I’m looking to replace my car with a cooler car. It’s a gas-guzzling piece of trash and it smells like a crab-shack dumpster. I’ll trade it for your Ferrari. That’s fucking dumb! Nobody wants to trade a Ferrari for a gas-guzzling piece of trash that smells like a crab-shack dumpster. They want to trade a Ferrari for a sweet frickin’ ride that cranks the tuneage! Calling your car a gas-guzzling piece of trash that smells like a crab-shack dumpster is a way of ensuring nobody will trade you their Ferrari in return for it.
This is an uncomfortable point to be making. Generally, as a person who writes about sports, I am in favor of sports players and coaches and executives being frank about things, especially when their thoughts about those things are stupid and indefensible, like Trading away Kristaps Porzingis is a good idea in June of 2017 because he doesn’t have enough post moves. It’s good for blogging when they do that. It will be good for blogging if (when) this trade happens, and especially if (when) the Knicks take a beating on it.
But more fundamentally, my job here is to put true things on the internet, and here is a true thing: This is the dumbest possible way to go about trading away an extremely good young player, which is already a dumb thing to do in the first place. Phil Jackson is worse at his job than the average reader of this post would be at Kevin Durant’s.