The question askers were there. The question answerers were not.
All 30 teams participated in Monday’s NBA Media Day, but the national spotlight was only on two franchises. Better yet, two men: Suspended Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka and “current” Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver.
“It’s a lot going on,” said Jaylen Brown on Monday. Apparently, neither Brown nor Tatum — the Celtics’ two best players — have talked to their coach since the “news” broke. The quotations were used because we still don’t know exactly what’s going on in Boston due to the team orchestrating a public relations disaster that should be studied by every college student who dreams of a career in PR. But, what we do know is that Udoka won’t be coaching this season due to some sort of relationship with a team staffer that was a violation of team rules. We don’t specifically know if it was just one woman or multiple women, or if it was consensual or crossed the line in some matter. All we know is that the internet is full of rumors and that due to Udoka’s public apology and acceptance of the team’s decision — that he did something really bad.
“Literally no one knows anything right now,” added Celtics guard Marcus Smart.
The Celtics — a team that was sporting a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals a few months ago — are a mess. Their coach may not ever come back, as his career might be over. And their front office mishandled this in every way as this story will remain in the news since it intersects with pop culture due to Udoka’s long-time relationship with legendary actress Nia Long.
But yet, on Monday, the players were the ones that had to unfairly answer questions about their boss’ personal decisions in a press conference where the questions that were asked were more than fair. No matter if he’ll ever publicly admit it or not, this season Jayson Tatum will be affected by who Udoka chose to sleep with. And it’s similar to what Devin Booker is dealing with in Phoenix.
“That’s tough for me because that’s not the Robert Sarver that I know, it’s not the Robert that welcomed me to Phoenix with open arms,” Booker said on Monday.
Booker is realizing that the man who drafted him and recently signed him to a $224 million extension is one way in public, and another in private. Sarver is in the process of selling the team after an investigation discovered that he’s an alleged raging misogynist and racist that loves to use the N-word.
“It was tough, just like anybody, reading all the different things,” Chris Paul added on Monday. For the second time in less than a decade, Paul is playing for a team with a racist owner that’s about to lose his team due to their hatred. If anyone deserved a mental health break to skip out on Media Day, it was Paul, as he was also the President of the Players Union during the Bubble in which playoff games were postponed due to players protesting against the shooting of Jacob Blake by police.
But, just like Booker, Smart, Brown, and Tatum in Boston, Paul soldiered up and faced the press and answered their questions because there wasn’t anybody else that could.
Allegations about Sarver’s behavior had been floating around the league for years, but until recently, nobody cared enough to actually do something about it. And depending on what you’ve read or heard, rumors have speculated that Udoka’s misgivings had become known to a small group a few months ago. But, on the one day in which reporters get a chance to ask just about anybody, anything — the two men who have the answers to the only questions that matter weren’t there.
Ironically enough, that just leaves us with another question: “Why not?”