The words Paul Millsap said and the words he didn't say
I owe Paul Millsap a public apology. I owe him this apology because I made an error and not the kind that is easily corrected in a small box on an inside page of a newspaper you may very well never see.
This is a screw up, and this one is all on me. I misquoted Paul Millsap. I heard words that he did not say and I put them in the newspaper. I heard words that were far more damaging than the ones said and I perpetuated an idea that may have damaged the image of an undeserving person.
Those words cannot be taken back, but they can be explained. Here's what happened: At Thursday's practice, I asked Millsap, the Jazz forward, for his reaction to being benched in the fourth quarter of a loss to the Houston Rockets. He said, "I want to be on the court at all times. Obviously it can't be that way. Got to live with it."
No matter what feelings Millsap was having, this was the right answer. It's what we call the high road. When I listened to the interview later, though, I heard something dramatically different. I heard, "Obviously, it's going to be that way," and that's what I wrote.
Radio hosts picked up on it; fans certainly did, too. And, as it turned out, so did players. When I arrived at the AT&T Center in San Antonio tonight, Al Jefferson called me over. He and Millsap are locker room leaders, and look out for one another. Jefferson wanted to mediate a dÃ©tente as Millsap sat nearby, listening to music.
Without getting into details, it became clear that Millsap believed I had misrepresented his thoughts. He said he meant he had to deal with one game. We disagreed over what the words he used were intended to convey.
Without much resolution, I returned to the pressroom and listened once again to the interview, the contents of which I was certain. I put my headphones in, but this time heard words I missed before. Millsap didn't speak clearly, but under a slight slur it was right there: "It can't be that way."
After the Jazz locker room emptied following tonight's loss in San Antonio, I apologized to Paul, told him I had made an error I deeply regretted. It's an apology that I must extend to you, the readers who count on The Tribune and me for accuracy and fairness.
I got this one terribly wrong, and I am sorry.