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Believe the hype

How a Web site helped the Bucks acquire an All-Star

Posted: Friday October 28, 2005 12:20AM; Updated: Friday October 28, 2005 10:25AM
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Jamaal Magloire
Jamaal Magloire, who averaged 11.7 points and 8.9 rebounds last season, will be used to mentor top pick Andrew Bogut.
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
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When does a trade rumor become self-fulfilling?

Apparently, when GMs read Web sites that post trade rumors. Take the strange case of the Jamaal Magloire deal. On Wednesday, the Hornets sent Magloire, a one-time All-Star center, to the Milwaukee Bucks for Desmond Mason, cash and a draft pick. Said Hornets coach Byron Scott of Magloire's departure: "We think for us and for him, it's probably the best thing to do."

This is an interesting sentiment, primarily because a few days earlier Scott could not have been more vehement in denying that the very same Jamaal Magloire was on the trading block. The big man was not available, Scott declared, and anyone who said otherwise was an idiot. Such as Peter Vecsey of the New York Post, for example. Here's Scott on Vecsey: "Peter Vecsey has no clue what he's talking about. He never has."

This broadside would have been more potent, of course, had Magloire not been traded soon after it was issued. This sequence of events leads one to conclude that Scott was either A) out of the loop on Magloire or B) doing an aggressive job of providing cover for his GM.

The truth, however, may lie somewhere in the gray area between A and B. To understand why, one must be familiar with the Web site hoopshype. Started in 2002, it has evolved into a smorgasbord of NBA-related information, articles and interviews, but what draws most readers is the "Rumors" link, which posts snippets of NBA articles from newspapers and other Web sites, with the most pertinent part bolded, underlined and printed in blue type. By visiting the site, one can effectively skim the nation's basketball media in 15 minutes a day. Of course, there are drawbacks, such as little things called "context" and "verification" but it's nevertheless a good source of information for fans. Interestingly, it's also a good source of information for GMs.

One of those is Bucks GM Larry Harris, who reads only two things each morning: the local newspaper and hoopshype. "It's the Bible of the NBA," he explained. "One of those things that everybody reads."

Over the weekend, Harris was perusing hoopshype when he hit upon the Magloire rumors. "I didn't know if they were true but it piqued my interest," he said. "We'd struggled rebounding-wise in the preseason and could use another big."

So on Monday, Harris called the Hornets in the mid-morning. "I called and made a reference to [the rumors] and said, 'Is there any truth to what I'm reading?' They said 'Nah, but we're feeling it out about him.' Within 48 hours, we had a deal."

Just like that, the Bucks had a big man to mentor Andrew Bogut, the Hornets had an exciting player (Mason) to draw fans and another draft pick, and the rumors had become, ex post facto, right on the money. To say that hoopshype played a large part in the trade would be to overplay its influence. For one, it was the New York Post that printed the rumor; hoopshype just spread it. For another, GMs are always calling each other upon hearing a rumor, or having a hunch. Still, it is the scope and breadth of the Web site that makes it (and other sites such as 82games.com) a potentially powerful tool; NBA GMs don't have time to look at out-of-town media, let alone read every sports section in the country. That they turn to this site also adds a populist twist; as opposed to information trickling from teams down to fans and media, in this case the flow was reversed.

How big is the site's influence? In an e-mail, Jorge Sierra of hoopshype wrote that this was the first time he knew of that a GM has credited the site for tipping him off (as the Racine Journal-Times first reported Thursday). "But," Sierra added, "we've heard a story about a coach who pretty much learned he was fired at hoopshype.com. When he was in Europe for a basketball camp, he asked the hotel staff to print the Rumors page for him every day because he had no Internet access. The GM who fired him is also a hoopshype reader."

It's a good story, though, of course, unverified. Which is fitting; put it in bold blue type, underline that sucker and it's good to go as a rumor. Who knows who might read it?