The NBA has a problem with how major news outlets cover its sport.
Rather than focus on the play on the court, much of NBA journalism focuses on sensationalizing player movement and pushing narratives to force superstar players into larger media markets to help their bottom line.
For years, all the talk about Giannis Antetokounmpo potentially leaving Milwaukee for Golden State or another large market despite him winning back-to-back MVPs. Then when he signed a supermax extension this past offseason, there has been little attention on him and his Bucks who have the NBA's second-best net rating.
When LeBron James was leading Cleveland to its fourth consecutive NBA Finals, all people wrote about was if he was going to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Now it extends to players who aren't even close to free agency.
Less than 12 hours after Damian Lillard hit a stepback game-winning three-pointer to defeat Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, ESPN First Take ran a segment debating if Lillard should force his way out of Portland.
Yes, that's the storyline national media pundits want to run with after Lillard and the Blazers are 5th in the West despite missing Jusuf Nurkić and CJ McCollum for most of the season.
Stephen A. Smith, a New York Knicks fan, took the angle of him wanting Lillard to leave Portland to play in a big market like Los Angeles or New York because he can gain popularity that way, ignoring that Smith himself is one of the faces of the largest sports network in the world and helps drive perceptions about players.
The reason Lillard doesn't get the recognition he deserves is that outlets such as ESPN fail to educate and engage their audience about on-court production and rather would push lazy narratives.
Lillard has gone on the record, many, many, many times, saying he wants to retire a Trail Blazer and go down as the top player in franchise history. Despite that, national media pundits always try to come up with trade scenarios for Lillard that always end with him in a large market like Los Angeles and where Portland gets little in return.
The Ringer's Bill Simmons kept saying Portland should trade Lillard to the Lakers for Lonzo Ball and a first-round pick in 2018 when Dame was named a First-Team All-NBA player. The Blazers arguably paid that price to acquire Robert Covington. That's not the price for a top-5 player in the NBA.
NBA ratings are down and while there are many factors contributing to that fact, it cannot help that the average fan can engage in national storylines without having to watch any games.
I'm not alone in Rip CIty getting tired of seeing the "Should Damian Lillard leave Portland?" angle time and time again, either.
Now, obviously, Smith is entitled to his opinion but can't ESPN wait to push this narrative again any time other than following a win and two years removed from a Western Conference Finals appearance?
Other major leagues do not have this issue.
No one was writing Deshaun Watson should get out of Houston until he demanded a trade, yet it has become commonplace in NBA coverage to do their best to push people into larger markets for little reason long before any trade request goes public.
Maybe one day Lillard will get his due rather than have honest coverage dangled in exchange for a trade request. Maybe.