Imagine you fail at a big project at work, and minutes afterward, you have to face questions from outsiders who aren’t capable of doing what you do. They want you to analyze every mistake you made and tell them why you failed.
NBA players do it every night – and they do it with the added stress of having just completed a physically exhausting activity. The practice finally got to Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond. David Mayo of MLive:
Brandon Knight, who frequently times his post-game showers in a fashion that allows him to avoid questioning, found it difficult to do with a back-to-back and a quick getaway. He responded when asked about his shooting struggles, then walked away muttering about the line of questioning being why he doesn’t do interviews.
Andre Drummond, asked about the game’s defining play — a JaVale McGee dunk in which the Nuggets’ center was lollygagging at midcourt until a desperation pass out to him to save possession, after which he found a wide-open lane and dribbled some 40 feet before a slam dunk — called it "an irrelevant question."
"He just came down the lane," Drummond said curtly, after his initial objection to the question. "He came down quick and finished it quick."
I’m not excusing Knight and Drummond. They should answer questions with more courtesy than that. Their high salaries, relative to the rest of the American workforce, are due, in part, to the free advertising media gives the NBA. Sure, they can blow off reporters without changing how much coverage the NBA receives, but if all NBA players completely shut out the media, revenue would eventually decrease (or rise less quickly than it would have otherwise).
But it bothers me when reporters demand answers without sympathy to the situation players face.
Knight is shooting poorly. What is he supposed to say about it? Sometimes, there’s a good reason worth discussing. Sometimes – especially when dealing with a small sample size like in this case – there’s not. Reporters should ask Knight the question, but if he doesn’t have a good answer, that might be because there’s no good answer. If he doesn’t want to talk about it, maybe it’s because, as a player, he knows his best way to fix the problems are putting them behind him.
Drummond, and every other Piston on the court, failed on the McGee play. But Drummond might have a point. The question might have been irrelevant to him, because we all saw what happened. He likely can’t provide any more context on it, and there’s no need to discuss preventing similar plays in the future. That play was so spectacularly bad that not even the Pistons will repeat it. Sometimes irrelevant questions get quality answers, so there’s not necessarily a harm in asking them. They just come with the risk of an athlete responding about the irrelevancy.
Drummond and Knight were wrong here. But any reporting on their errors deserves more context. Drummond and Knight were wrong in a situation where many of us would have been wrong, and while that doesn’t change anything, it’s important to remember.