When athletes and coaches speak, they are ever mindful that opponents listen, ready to twist every syllable to their advantage. That leaves the rest of us trying to interpret the speakers’ true feelings.
Thursday’s news conference inside Allen Fieldhouse, more so even than usual, required activating the truth radar, thanks to Marcus Smart’s backflip on James Naismith Court last season and his preseason remarks to USA Today, which hinted he thought Andrew Wiggins was overhyped.
Bothered by the backflip, fellas?
“What bothered me was that we played like crap, not someone else doing a backflip,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “If we’d have played better, it never would have happened. Things like that don’t bother me.”
And the radar says: true.
“We had a chance to win that game, and we didn’t do it,” Self said. “And he did do a backflip, and I watched it on tape. I thought it was beautiful form. I thought he tucked just at the right time and got full extension. I thought it was very impressive.”
Again, credible statement. I was sitting right in front of Smart when he did it, and I had to pinch my chins to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It was a remarkable display of athleticism.
Wayne Selden didn’t flip-flop on the backflip question because doing so would require taking a stance. Instead, he said, “No comment.”
And the radar says: no comment.
Wiggins: “I didn’t think anything of it.”
Has the 6-foot-8 Wiggins ever tried one?
“I can’t do it,” he said.
Again, probably true and true.
Now for the juicier stuff, Smart’s comments about Wiggins.
“They are saying he is the best college player there is and he has not even played a game yet,” Smart told USA Today. “Of course that hypes me up. It is all talk. He still has to put his shorts on one leg at a time like I do. It is all potential. I am not saying he can’t do it. But he has not done it yet.”
Smart went on to say the SI cover and the rest of the hype “puts a lot of pressure on him.”
Wiggins said he read Smart’s remarks at the time.
“Someone’s opinion,” Wiggins said. “Doesn’t mean nothing.”
Clever, his intentional use of a double-negative. If something doesn’t mean “nothing,” that means it means “something.” So the radar says he misled without lying.
I once knew of a guy who was the master of the intentional mislead/non-lie. He once said he tried marijuana back in his college days, but never inhaled and conveniently left out that he loved him some pot brownies. (Can’t you just imagine this guy staring at a fish tank: “Why do they call them goldfish, cuz like, they’re orange, man? They should call them orangefish. Right? What were we just talking about again?”)
Anyway, back to Wiggins.
Will he use Smart’s remarks as motivation?
“Uh, I wouldn’t really say so,” Wiggins said. “When someone says something, and I don’t really care for the person, it doesn’t influence me or anything like that. It doesn’t really matter what he says, only if it’s like my parents, my family, my friends.”
False. He’ll use it to motivate him.
Hours before the Kansas State game, someone from one of the national sports networks said of K-State’s Marcus Foster, “He might be the best freshman playing in this game.” Wiggins didn’t let Foster breathe all afternoon.
So, I asked Wiggins, when he scored 54 points in a high school game right after a national publication was critical of him, was that just a coincidence?
“Probably,” he said, smiling a swampland salesman’s smile.
A coincidence, yeah, that’s the ticket. It was just a coincidence.