It was the biggest story in the NBA, and ESPN didn’t cover it, outside of a nondescript news article.
Why did the WorldWide Leader ignore Kevin Durant’s reported ultimatum to the Nets? It all comes down to Woj, says a former ESPN and longtime NBA reporter.
Dave O'Brien reflects on Eck
Ethan Strauss, who authors the excellent Substack, “House of Strauss,” wrote Tuesday that Adrian Wojnarowski’s close relationship with Nets general manager Sean Marks was a probable explanation for ESPN’s silence on the story. On Monday, Shams Charania — Woj’s arch rival — reported that Durant told the Nets to either choose him, or Steve Nash and Marks.
Charania’s report was quickly aggregated on seemingly every sports site, including this one. But ESPN didn’t address the story until Monday night with the following headline: “Brooklyn Nets governor Joe Tsai voices support for front office, coaches in wake of Kevin Durant's trade demands.”
The source was a tweet from Tsai that said as much.
Strauss has written before about Wojnarowski’s uncomfortably close ties to sources. Last year, Strauss published a packet of documents that Wojnarowski supposedly sends to agents and team employees highlighting his superior reach compared to other NBA Insiders.
Strauss previously covered the Warriors for ESPN.
In an appearance Tuesday on the “Basketball Illuminati” podcast, Strauss expanded on his theory about Wojnarowski’s role in squashing ESPN’s Durant discussion. “Sean Marks is a well-known source for Woj. I’m not saying that’s completely why this happened, but it’s good information to have. It’s context,” he said. “In this circumstance, I don’t think Sean Marks wants it out there that Kevin Durant wants him fired. If you’re the GM of the team, maybe you don’t want everyone talking about how the superstar of the team wants you fired. In this case, it seems like people at ESPN knew this was a ‘no-go’ zone.”
To support his case, Strauss pointed to Wojnarowski’s public rebuke of colleague Brian Windhorst’s report that the Nets and Sixers were discussing a swap of Ben Simmons and James Harden leading up to the NBA trade deadline.
The deal wound up happening, of course.
While Charania is close with players and agents, Strauss says that Wojnarowski’s edge comes from his relationships with GMs. At the NBA Summer League, Strauss says Wojnarowski hosted a “Dinner with Woj” event for league execs.
Wojnarowski not acknowledging Durant’s demand — he didn’t tweet about it Monday — could be about protecting one of his treasured GM sources.
“I cannot definitively tell you that Woj told everyone, ‘Stay away on this one.’ I can’t tell you that information,” said Strauss. “I can tell you, Woj has jumped down a lot of people’s throats when they do mess with his sourcing, or reveal things that sources don’t want to be out there.”
For what it’s worth, Charania reports the Celtics are a “leading candidate” for Durant. If a trade happens, we’ll see who reports it first.