Kentucky Basketball: Julius Randle's Foot (And Kyrie Irving's Toe)

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes the best reporters have a bad day, even when their facts are right.

This whole kerfuffle about Julius Randle's foot is troubling to me on a number of levels. I'm not troubled about Randle's foot, that seems to be fine despite a report by Adrian Wojnarowski that some NBA sources have told him foot surgery would "likely" be needed.

If that's what Wojnarowski's sources say, that's what they say. It doesn't mean that they're correct, or even have the last word on the subject. I would have been much better if Wojnarowski had qualified his sources, at least describing them as doctors or medical professionals. If it's just a couple of random GM's or others close to NBA teams, that sort of reporting is harmful and could be pushing an agenda or three. You'd think a veteran like Wojnarowski would know better.

Also troubling to me is this paragraph:

The procedure is expected to keep Randle out six to eight weeks this summer, sources said, but there's a strong expectation within front offices that he'll be cleared for the start of training camp in the fall.

According to who? This reads as if there were already general agreement between multiple medical professionals, and an inference that Randle was involved in the process. When I read this paragraph, I thought it was fait accompli.

Randle, and his mother, strongly denied both the need and plans for any surgery to Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal, and went further. Randle, in an uncharacteristically blunt response, informed Twitter that he had no plans whatever to have surgery, and called out Wojnarowski by Twitter handle thus:

Wojnarowski replied:

Kyle Tucker did something Wojnarowski apparently neglected or couldn't be troubled to do — he called Randle's mother, somebody in a position to know if her son was planning surgery, and she described the Yahoo! report as "a lie." She didn't just leave it at that:

"Everything with Julius is fine," Kyles told The Courier-Journal. "There is no surgery scheduled whatsoever. Nothing. They don't have a clue. They haven't spoken to us. They haven't spoken to Julius' doctor. I know for a fact, because he is my son, there is no surgery scheduled, period, now or after."

In defense of Wojnarowski, who is generally considered one of the best in the business when it comes to reporting on the NBA, I have no doubt he was repeating what he was told. My problem is simply that his report reads as though this was all part of a plan already in place, and not just an opinion from somebody or several somebodies, presumably reliable sources. That's what drew the interest of Kyle Tucker, presumably, and the ire of both Randle and his mother.

For some strange reason, mainstream sports media reporters felt the need to defend Wojnarowski, first a certain Brett Pollakoff of MSNBC. Pollakoff says that "a whole host" of reporters (I guess three constitutes a "host" to Pollakoff) had heard the same thing as Wojnarowski but only two of them, Jeff Goodman and Jonathan Givony, apparently had any first-hand knowledge of the unnamed sources. Givony said:

Well, Jonathan, let me enlighten you why he had an issue with Wojnarowski — it's because a) he wasn't asked about it and b) the way Wojnarowski reported it, which made Randle appear to be involved in the process. Goodman's sourcing was equally questionable:

According to several team executives, the 6-foot-9 Kentucky forward's broken right foot hasn't healed correctly -- and sources confirmed a Yahoo! Sports report that Randle may need surgery after the June 26 NBA draft that will keep him out of summer league.

"This is an issue," one executive told ESPN.com. "It didn't heal right."

I don't know about you, but these are not NBA doctors offering the opinion, but rather executives. Presumably, they are repeating the concerns of doctors, but that's not necessarily true, and they may or may not be correct in their assessment. Medical professionals may not even agree.

There is nothing at all illegitimate about questioning the fitness of Randle's formerly broken foot. But in my view, when sourcing medical matters of import to a player's draft position, a medical professional should be invovled somewhere. There is no evidence in the reporting that this is a medical opinion offered by an expert, unless we are to start considering "NBA executives" medical experts.

Wojnarowski could have avoided all this by simply saying something like this:

In the opinion of some NBA sources I have spoken to, Julius Randle may want to consider surgery on his foot as soon as possible after the draft. They are concerned that a screw put in when he broke his foot during his senior year of high school should be removed in order to prevent future complications.

Randle would have read that and probably been fine with it. He may have tweeted that his foot is fine and he doesn't agree, but matters of opinion easy to address. But instead, here is how the article put it:

University of Kentucky forward Julius Randle, considered a top 10 pick, likely needs surgery on his right foot after the NBA draft in June, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The procedure is expected to keep Randle out six to eight weeks this summer, sources said, but there's a strong expectation within front offices that he'll be cleared for the start of training camp in the fall.

When I read those two paragraphs, I assumed that it was, as I said earlier, fait accompli. Others my have read it differently, but I do this for a living, and that's how it came off. I am not the least bit surprised that Randle and his mother took exception.

Far be it from me to school a veteran NBA reporter on matters of style, but in this humble, non-journalist's opinion, the report was poorly done and thoughtlessly did not provide Randle an opportunity to respond, nor did it provide any expert medical support. That's not a requirement, of course, it just seems to me to be a matter of good manners.

John Clay also comes to the defense of Wojnarowski:

Not sure why Randle wants to refute the report. He’s mistaken if he thinks he can hide a medical issue from NBA teams, which are in the business of collecting as much information on draft prospects as possible. Plus, teams already appear to know what this entails.

Well, yes Randle would be mistaken if he were trying to hide it, which I don't think he is. He simply does not agree that it is an issue, and apparently if his mother is to be believed, his doctor does not either. That would explain why he took exception to an anonymously-sourced report that, in my view, implied Randle was in agreement on the matter.

And yes, dropping a bomb that could affect his draft stock without even bothering to get his comments or state that this was merely a non-medical opinion (and not the only one) will rankle a guy. Wojnarowski's defenders need to dispense with the groupthink and act like responsible adults rather than reactionary critics touting Wojnarowski's credentials. In my humble opinion, Wojnarowski's report was bad form, and if his defenders disagree, I'd accuse them of circling the wagons — something reporters seem to be doing a lot of these days.

As for Kyrie Irving's toe, I hear it's just fine.

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