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Lies, damn lies and incessant NBA Draft gossip

Brad Penner / USA TODAY Sports

Toward the end of the third season of “Louie,” a show that’s steadily grown on me and now sits near and dear to my heart, a brilliant plot twist came along that made me see the entire series in a new light. Louis CK’s auteur work was transformed, in my eyes, from a cute little series of vignettes into a longform work of fiction with a real narrative arc.

Here’s the scene I’m referring to (with the obligatory spoiler alert for those who still haven’t seen a TV episode from nearly two years ago and may still care to). We’re nearing the end of a three-episode arc in which the fictional Louie, a mid-level standup comedian making $80,000 a year, has a chance to replace David Letterman on CBS’ “Late Show” and become an overnight millionaire. The competition for the role is between him and Jerry Seinfeld, and before his audition, he receives a last-minute pep talk from a network executive who gives him three pointers, the last of which is this: “If someone asks you to keep a secret, their secret is a lie.”

Then Seinfeld himself walks into Louie’s dressing room, and he says that he’s got some bad news: The race is over, and Jerry’s already won the job. Jerry placates Louie with some nice words, he says goodbye and he leaves with one last note: “Nobody knows about this yet, so keep it a secret.”

Louie thinks he’s a genius for realizing that the “secret”-telling Jerry is a liar, and he then proceeds to take the stage and nail the audition, and good has seemingly triumphed over evil. But the real twist comes at the end of the episode – you discover that neither Louie nor Jerry is actually getting the role, and that Letterman is coming back on a 10-year-contract. The real liar wasn’t Seinfeld – it was the CBS executive who had, two episodes earlier, told Louie the false “secret” that Letterman was retiring. The network – and by extension, CK’s script – was playing the long game.

It was a great three-episode run of television because it really made you think about the way the business world is structured. One guy can never really be the villain on his own – like with any season of “The Wire,” the real moral from this stretch of “Louie” is that the institution is evil, not the individual. One man can lie, but it’s just a small part of a bigger network of lies.

What am I getting at here? It’s this: Every time I try to follow the NBA Draft, I feel like I’m rewatching that classic “Louie” episode. I’m being lied to at every turn, and it’s hard to discern what’s just a harmless, surface lie and what’s a real lie that matters. I don’t blame any one person for putting misinformation out there – instead, I point the finger at the whole damn system.

Austin Ainge, son of Celtics head honcho Danny Ainge and currently the team’s director of player development, met with the media in Boston last week to address a whole host of rumors that have swirled around his team this June, regarding everything from their plans with the No. 6 overall draft pick to their chances of landing Kevin Love. Here’s what Ainge had to say, courtesy of MassLive’s Jay King:

“Ignore all of it. It’s all planted on purpose. Anyone who’s willing to talk – even off the record – this time of year has an agenda and is trying to accomplish something. So we ignore absolutely all of it.”

You’re probably nodding along right now as you look over that quote. Of course it’s true! With the draft coming up and trade possibilities opening up again and free agency right around the corner, everyone has an agenda, and everyone’s feeding nonsense to the closest reporter in an effort to further their own goals. Want to pump up this guy’s trade value? Leak something about a Love offer. Want to push that guy down the draft board? Start squawking about his medical records.

This stuff goes on every day, and even the best reporters get fooled by it. So it’s laudable, in a way, that Austin Ainge has the courage to speak out against it.

Then again, the Celtics themselves are right in the middle of all this, so it’s hard to say whether they’re the innocent victims or the liars. Are they Louie or Jerry in this scenario?

After all, someone told the Sporting News’ Sean Deveney on Friday that “you can’t use a top-five pick” on the injured Joel Embiid. The Celtics, remember, are picking sixth. Is that just a coincidence, or is that a very deliberate Ainge leak aimed at bringing in a franchise center?

Meanwhile, somebody else is telling ESPN’s Marc Stein all the juicy details about Golden State’s pursuit of Kevin Love, sneaking tidbits out thereabout Klay Thompson, David Lee, draft picks and plenty of other moving parts. Is that coming from Minnesota, just trying to float an offer out there and gauge the public’s response? Is it from the Dubs, who are trying to drive up the trade value for Thompson and Lee. Is it a realistic deal – and if so, why would anyone leak it?

As for the No. 1 pick, who told CBS’ Ken Berger that the Cavaliers were “leaning toward Jabari Parker” now that Embiid was hurt? Is that really happening, or are there ulterior motives at play there? Maybe the Cavs are just putting feelers out there to see how people will respond, or maybe they’re trying to put a scare into Parker-crazed Milwaukee. So many possibilities, and so few people know the truth.

The only thing I know for sure is that I don’t know anything. The only people I know are wrong are the ones who are too dogmatic, in one direction or the other. Any time someone says Rumor X is clearly the truth or Rumor Y is complete garbage, I know to back away slowly. Especially this time of year, no one’s ever as smart as they think they are.

The first rule of show business told to the fictional Louie by network executive Jack Dahl, played with hilarious quirkiness by David Lynch, is “Look ‘em in the eye, and speak from the heart.” In that vein I’d like to say, from the bottom of my heart, that I have no idea what’s going on in the NBA right now. No offense, but I doubt that you do either.

Evans Clinchy