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Lakers’ Messy Coaching Search Revives The Scoopster Standoff Between Woj And Shams

NBA reporters Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania
Left: David L. Nemec/Getty Images; right: Image via YouTube|

Adrian Wojnarowski (left) and Shams Charania (right).

Dan Hurley will not be the next coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Days after ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke his silence on the team's search by reporting that the college coach had "been at the forefront of the Lakers' search from the beginning of the process," Hurley removed himself from contention on Monday and chose to stay at UConn. This was merely the latest indignity in the Lakers' quest for a new head coach, a news cycle defined by contradictory scoops from Woj and his archrival Shams Charania. That conflict has become more interesting than the search itself.

The Hurley scoop came out of nowhere: On June 6, Wojnarowski reported that Hurley and the Lakers were deep in talks on a "massive, long-term contract," and he made a point of writing that the UConn coach had "been at the forefront of the Lakers' search from the beginning of the process." In other words, he was downplaying Charania's big scoop from two days earlier on how the Lakers were "zeroing in on JJ Redick as the frontrunner." Charania never had Hurley's name on his list of serious candidates; if Woj was right, then his former protege was getting played by somebody.

According to Woj, the Lakers offered Hurley a six-year, $70 million deal, which would have made him the sixth-highest paid head coach in the NBA. What remains unclear is whether he ever seriously considered taking it, or merely used it as leverage against UConn. The Lakers, as glamorous as their image is, are among the last remaining family shops in sports, and they don't have the war chests their rivals do. Their offer to Ty Lue in 2019 was so bad that he chose to stay with the Clippers as an assistant.

The team's offer to Hurley was bigger, but it wasn't enough. After winning his first title in 2023, Hurley signed a six-year deal worth $32.1 million, a little less than half the Lakers' offer, but he was open about seeking a new raise after winning his second championship this past season. The vacancy at Kentucky created by John Calipari's departure gave Hurley's camp an opportunity to ask for more money, even before the Lakers showed interest. Shortly before the Lakers' offer came in, Hurley said of a possible extension, "It's probably taken more time than any of us would have liked, but it's not something that's ever been a rush for me." Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont is more than willing to negotiate a raise for Hurley, so it seems that the coach successfully used the Lakers, and perhaps also the reporter who wrote a book about his father, to get what he was after. Woj reported on Hurley's choice to stay, in characteristically inscrutable language:

On Tuesday, to follow on the news that Hurley would remain at UConn, Charania went on his gambling-sponsored desk show to cast doubt on reports stemming from an ESPN-based area of origin. "It does beg the question around the league: Was there genuine interest, was this a genuine process with this, or was this simply about leverage?" Charania said, the implication being that Woj was played or let himself get played. When Charania appeared on Pat McAfee's show later that day, he took another little shot at the sincerity behind the Hurley-to-Lakers rumors.

The competing scooplets and little implicit digs from Woj and Shams here represent the first time the two have been in direct conflict with each other since their split in 2017, when Wojnarowski left Yahoo Sports for ESPN. This past October, Washington Post reporter Ben Strauss detailed the indirect pettiness of the rivalry: Athletic staffers discouraged from dropping Woj tweets into their Slack channel, and ESPNers "discouraged from tweeting Athletic stories or inviting Athletic guests onto their podcasts." Neither publicly acknowledges the other, though they have been forced into proximity as they battle for the exclusive on a decision for the Lakers that could affect whether LeBron James stays with the team. Or, as our scoopsters might put it: The closeness of operations, as well as the contrasts that disunify them, regarding the information reported on the search conducted by the Lakers, is such that the two reporters have begun slowly spanning the looming pathway to making contact, in such a way as has been unprecedented.

While this insider standoff has been entertaining, it's also sobering, as it shows a byproduct of the transactional way these two reporters work: by doing favors for organizations and agents in exchange for scoops. Even if the bulk of the NBA's news runs through them, they are both only as definitive as their sources allow them to be.

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