When rumors fly, and land with a thud: The truth on Spoelstra, Lillard and the Miami Heat | Opinion

·3 min read

Portland Trail Blazers interested in Erik Spoelstra! Wait. Really?

Damian Lillard interested in Miami Heat! Wait. Hold on.

Heat fans have been fed reasons this week to turn their attention to northwest Oregon. The question worth exploring: Why?

I try to not be a self-loathing journalist — the anti-media crowd is loud enough without my help — but occasionally the business of reporting, of what a “report” even is, makes me cringe a bit.

So Tuesday there were reports the Trail Blazers, looking for a new coach, had the Heat’s Spoelstra on their radar. Except the reports were just other media outlets regurgitating the original report that wasn’t actually a report at all. It was Ethan Skolnick of Five Reasons Sports Network tweeting this:

“We have multiple sources saying Erik Spoelstra’s name has been discussed internally regarding their coach opening. We are NOT reporting contact has been made, or that Spoelstra has any intention of leaving Miami.”

It might well have been accurate. Portland supposedly is cobbling a list of potential candidates that might be three dozen long. That’s a lot of internal discussing. Front-runners seem to include Chauncey Billups and Mike D’Antoni. Becky Hammon and Dawn Staley are also in the reported mix, in case Portland works up the nerve be be actual Trail Blazers.

But it made sense in terms of speculation that the wide net might include Spo, who grew up in Portland and played for the local university, and whose father Jon is a former Trail Blazers executive.

I know Ethan. He’s a former Herald colleague. He’s legit. Knows the NBA. He isn’t some uninformed fan writing in a blog from Ma’s basement.

He also has since-deleted the tweet that started this, that other outlets passed along as some variant of news. In the social media age, deleting a tweet is akin to renting a billboard on I-95 that reads, OOPS. It happened to be Skolnick this time but it could have been any of us in the mad rush to be first.

In the interim the Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz, one of America’s most-listened-to sports podcasts, gave the “report” national legs by discussing on Tuesday whether Spo might leave Miami.

That was before Trail Blazers play-by-play voice Travis Demers, referring to his own unnamed sources, tweeted “... any rumor involving Erik Spoelstra and the Trail Blazers are dead, he is staying in Miami.”

Less than a year ago, in fact, Spoelstra said he had no desire to ever leave Miami. The only indication to the contrary has been this one tendril of smoke from a tweet with its own disclaimer, a tweet since deleted, but only after being forwarded as something in the broad vicinity of news by other outlets.

Which brings us to Damian (Dame) Lillard, Portland’s great scorer, who seemed unhappy after the Blazer’s first-round playoff ouster by Denver — despite Lillard averaging 34.3 points and 10.2 assists.

Speculation that Lillard and Miami could have mutual interest is even reflected in new betting odds. The Heat at +300 has the third-best odds of landing Lillard, after the Knicks and Clippers.

So here we go again: Heat fans’ hopes raised like the flag in front of the elementary school every morning.

It was James Harden before. Now it’s Lillard. Wait, what about Kawhi Leonard? Wasn’t Miami also said to be “attractive” to him should he elect to leave the Clippers?

Lillard, 30, is under contract. Portland would have to trade him. But would they? Will he even push for that? Would the Heat be willing to part with Bam Adebayo in the package to get him?

Trades and free agency — how your team might get better, fast — has become the currency of NBA fandom, more interesting than what’s happening on the court.

While we wait for actual news to happen, tasty tweets will sustain us. Rumors and speculation will suffice.

And Your Friend The Media will be there for you every time.

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