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Rockets fans should not be fooled by NBA trade "rumors"

Jimmy Butler and his advisors clearly manipulated their situation. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Here is a public service announcement for all Rockets fans as you await the start of the regular season. No matter how many times you read a "breaking news" trade rumor about your team, don't believe it unless you see it in an official press release. With cut down day approaching and teams being forced to release players that are veterans or have value across the NBA, you are going to hear tons of rumored trades and moves and almost all of them are untrue. Agents and general managers use writers, bloggers and social media as an effective tool in doing their job. If they get enough people talking about the tidbits and tips that they "secretly" give out, the fire storm that ensuses will create a towering inferno of results for their clients and teams.

You see, every agent has a few "go-to" writers, bloggers and media members that they have built a relationship with, that they will strategically slip secrets, information and leads to. General Managers have their allies as well and they use them as they see fit. Some of these media contacts are rewarded with exclusive interviews and access to the team and players if they play along and publish the information supplied to them. It's fast becoming one of the most lucrative moves in sports because of the results it can create and the positive outcomes that can be tied directly to the breaking news that started the entire chain of events.

Take the Jimmy Butler situation as an example. We all know by now what transpired late last week and how Butler's dramatic return to the team and his first practice sent NBA fans across the country reeling. Did it ever cross your mind that it was all a set up and carefully scripted plan to get Jimmy out of Minny and to another destination in the league that he no doubt wants to play for? Well take it for what it's worth, but if you thought it was purely coincidence that ESPN and Rachel Nichols just happened to be in Minneapolis for an exclusive one-on-one interview with Butler, I have some swamp land I'd like to sell you in Florida. On top of that, do you think the interview would have been must see TV and stir up as much conversation, if he had just put his head down, worked his butt off and finished practice without incident? No way! The whole thing was a ploy by Butler's camp to force the issue and get their client out of a bad situation. Since he still has a year left on his contract and risked losing money if he continued his hold out and stayed away from the team, he made an educated decision and carried out a plan to get the ball rolling on his mission to get shipped out of town.

As the week went on, we saw more rumors about the Timberwolves re-engaging the Rockets in talks, a possible Pat Riley profanity-laced conversation with Tom Thibodeau and more. This is what's known as a counter strike, where management tips off hand-selected members of the media to get the word out and create a story that will have traction and create publicity and conversation across the basketball world. In the process, it will also sound the alarm to the teams that were in deep trade discussions for Butler in the last week or so, that they will not be getting the franchise player that they had coveted. In most cases, the reaction to the hot, new rumor is a quick call to see if the shunned teams can make a last ditch, final offer that no doubt includes sweetening the pot from what was originally offered.

The take away for you is that you should never get too excited until a deal is official and reported as "done." Until then, the game of Cat and Mouse will continue and those of you that read or hear the rumors and take the time to spread the news are merely pawns in a bigger chess game being played by agents and front offices everywhere. So just sit back, relax and realize your team is ready to run it back as they pursue the always elusive Larry O'Brien trophy and it's a long season ahead. Rumors will continue to fly all the way to the trade deadline, so be cautious and be prepared.

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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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