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Andy Miller is mad at Chris McCosky, and it’s my fault

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Because I'm a blogger. Trust me, it'll make sense later.

Even though Miller, Chauncey Billups' agent, disputes that an agreement is in place between his client and the Pistons, McCosky is sticking to his original story, which is that a five-year, $60 million deal is in place. McCosky explains in his blog on the Detroit News:

At about 4 p.m. today, I reported on Detnews.com and WDFN that the Pistons and Chauncey Billups had agreed structurally to a five-year, $60 million offer. That has not changed, despite a lot of other media outlets' attempts to discredit that report. That's how this sickening business works sometimes.

I never said the deal was done. No deal can be officially done until Billups signs, and he can't do that until July 11. Andy Miller, Billups' agent, is furious with me and that bothers me. I have had a great working relationship with Andy and Chauncey and I want that to continue. I wasn't trying to do harm to anybody. Announcing the structure of a five-year, $60 million deal didn't sound to me like bad news for either one of them. It's a great offer -- by average annual salary the richest in Pistons' history.

But Andy feels like the Pistons were trying to pressure him into a deal. That's not remotely the case, but that's how he feels. He was also angry that the news got out before he could talk to Chauncey. He tore into me and then categorically denied agreeing to any part of any kind of deal. That's fine. Except, the structure of the deal is still in place and Billups has no other offer even close to bid against it. Are there important details to clean up? Of course. Are any of those details potentially deal-breaking? Don't think so.

Actually, he didn't initially announce the structure of the deal, at least not on DetNews.com (I didn't hear the WDFN report). To recap, his initial announcement (since scrubbed off DetNews.com and replaced with an updated article) consisted simply of this:

Free-agent guard Chauncey Billups agreed Tuesday in principle to a five-year, $60-million deal to remain with the Pistons.

Billups, who will be 31 next season, became a free agent Sunday. He will be the highest-paid Piston next season. There apparently were no other serious bidders for Billups.

There's no explanation of structure in that announcement, and it was that initial announcement that set the wheels in motion, prompting A. Sherrod Blakely of MLive to call Miller and have Miller refute that any agreement was in place.

Can you blame Blakely for calling Miller? Of course not; he's playing catch-up on a story another reporter is trying to break. And can you blame Blakely for relaying the news to fellow MLive employee Justin Rogers that Miller refuted the news? Not at all; the fact Miller (apparently the only person both privy to the negotiations and willing to go on the record) contradicted a published report is inherently newsworthy.

And just to set facts straight, it was only after McCosky's original announcement was updated that he actually explained the structure of the deal (four years guaranteed, admitting it was still unclear whether the fifth one would be), and it was in that same update that he included quotes from Miller ("I would not characterize it as being wrapped up ...") confirming Blakely's report that this wasn't a done deal.

In any case, McCosky's blog entry tonight also said this:

Listen, this is a great offer for Billups. Are we really at a point where giving a 30-year-old point guard a five-year deal that averages $12 million per is considered a low-ball offer? ...

The Pistons are bidding against themselves for Billups. On Tuesday, they could have told Miller to go ahead and seek your best offer. The best he would have come back with, most likely, would have been a $9 million per year starting salary with the Bucks. But the Pistons didn't do that. They made an offer that reflects both what he has done for the franchise the past five years and for what he means to the team going forward. Nothing about a five-year, $60 million offer is insulting. Nothing. And at the end of the day, Chauncey will happily sign it.

Not to split hairs, but a five-year, $60 million contract probably starts out at $9.75 million a year, with 10.5% raises each year (why 10.5%? Because it's the max allowed by the collective bargaining agreement), culminating in a $14.5 million fifth year. A five-year deal starting at $9 million with 10.5% raises each year culminates with a $13.4 million fifth year and is worth a total of $55.5 million.

So yeah, using McCosky's claim of a $60 million deal in place and his example of what Billups could get elsewhere, the Pistons would be chipping in an extra $4.5 million over the life of the contract. That's a nice chunk of change, but definitely not overwhelming. Just felt I should point that out, since "$4.5 million over the life of a contract" puts things into better perspective than talking about "a five-year deal that averages $12 million per" and "a $9 million starting salary with the Bucks," which makes it sound like you're comparing two very different scenarios, when they're actually quite close.

Why am I bothering to set all this straight? Perhaps because McCosky's closing thoughts rubbed me the wrong way:

In the old days, before ESPN, the internet and blogs, a reporter didn't have to rush to print every step of a contract negotiation. You laid out the parameters for both sides, you reported whatever propaganda each side wanted to spew and you waited for the final deal. We can't do that any more. Any blip of information, however preliminary or non-binding, has to be put out there immediately. So, you are going to have days like this, when a normal step of a negotiation process gets diced and sliced by various media outlets until you can't remember what the original piece of news was. The news is this -- the basic structure of a deal is in place for Billups to return to the Pistons for the next five years.

I can understand McCosky's frustration with a never-ending news-cycle -- he began his career in another era and has had to learn how to do his job differently on the fly. But in this specific instance, I don't buy that the story had "to be put out there immediately." It seems that he was only one who had the inside scoop, so there really was no rush. Calling in to talk on WDFN and putting up a hastily written 50-word announcement on DetNews.com reeks of trying to be known as the guy who broke the story, not as the guy who got the story right. (And did he really throw "ESPN, the internet and blogs" under the bus and not talk radio? Of those, talk radio is usually the most irresponsible.)

Before saying a word to talk radio or putting up a bare-bones announcement online, why not place a call to Miller and invest another 45 minutes cobbling together a more informative article explaining that McCosky's anonymous source doesn't agree with what Chauncey's camp is willing to put on the record?

(Which, mind you, still hasn't been done, at least not with the version of the story presently online. Nowhere does McCosky reveal where he's getting his info. I'm assuming he has a source -- and judging by Miller's reaction, a source within the team -- not because he actually reveals as much but because I'm not willing to admit he simply has divine inspiration.)

Regardless of how this post might come across, I don't actually have anything against McCosky. In fact, I believe him, and I wouldn't be surprised if Miller is the one trying to spin things in an attempt to control the story and what his client hears. But lashing out at other media outlets for not blindly accepting his word and then blaming the internet for his burning desire to scoop the world? That just doesn't make sense.