Roughly 15 minutes after his team had lost its sixth game in a row, a game that the Trail Blazers desperately needed to have some sort of chance to stay within the Western Conference playoff picture, and while his head coach was still answering questions from reporters about the “disappointing” first-half effort against the Phoenix Suns, Blazer guard Will Barton tweeted out a message to a television personality.
“Ayyeee @SHAQ yall don’t joke me to bad on Shaqtin’ a fool lol.”
Barton, as a rookie, might not know the NBA’s policy on social media dating back to 2009 stating that players can not use “cell phones and other communication devices” from “45 minutes before game time until after players have finished their responsibilities after games.”
Rookie Meyers Leonard also might be unaware of the memo because on this very same night, around 35 minutes before tip off against the Phoenix Suns, he tweeted to his followers:
“The girl that wrote the article on Illini athletes…Completely false and quite possibly one of the worst articles ever written. #GetAClue”
The Blazers have several social-media friendly players, especially among their younger players as four of the team’s five rookies have official Twitter accounts. However their Tuesday night tweets revealed a lack of saavy as Barton and Leonard both violated the league’s policy by expressing thoughts that had nothing to do with the Blazers’ game.
Though Barton has since removed the tweet, Leonard’s remained up.
“This is definitely new for them. It’s a new experience for them,” team captain LaMarcus Aldridge said. “And I don’t think they really understand how each game is that important. If we win these games and be locked in, then we’d get into the playoffs. I don’t think they understand that yet because they’ve never been here before.”
“All you can do is talk,” Aldridge said about advising the rookies. “Eventually, when you can’t talk anymore, guys have to just learn. I mean, I’m tired of talking – not tired, but I’m not going to harp on every little thing. I’m going to work with them in the gym and try to talk to guys every day.”
Even J.J. Hickson, who has been in the league for four years, faced questions after the game about a series of tweets sent out from his account on Valentine’s Day that some followers deemed as inappropriate. Signed with the hashtag #girlbye, a few of the Hickson tweets included:
After the game, Hickson was asked three questions about the tweets and in his responses vacillated between thoughtfulness and defiance.
“I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinions,” Hickson said. “I meant no harm by my tweets.”
“I meant no harm in any way. I’m not that type of person to cause harm or commit harm to anyone.”
When asked if he felt a responsibility to represent the Blazers when he tweets, Hickson replied to the reporter: “Are we here to talk tweets, or are we here to talk basketball?”
“I think I represent the Trail Blazers great. When I tweet, I tweet outside basketball. Like I said, it’s my personal things I do and like I said, it’s an opinion. I can do something good and a million people think it’s something good and one person thinks it’s wrong.”