This Grammy nominee is posting irresistible NBA rumors, but beware

The NBA’s annual trade deadline is just one week away. While many fans have already set push notifications for the reporters known for breaking big news, don’t be surprised if over the next few days you see a surprising name pop up on your Twitter feed trying to do the same. 

Robert Randolph, the frontman of four-time Grammy-nominated Robert Randolph and the Family Band who was listed in 2003 by Rolling Stone at No. 97 in its compilation of the 100 greatest guitarists, moonlights as an NBA insider. 

“As much as I’m a music junkie, I’m more of a sports junkie,” Randolph told me during a phone interview. “If you gave me the choice of a Grammy or sports show on ESPN, I’m taking the sports show every time.” 

But take what you see from him on social media with a hefty grain of salt — much of the information that Randolph relays winds up being, well, wrong. 

Like the reporters he is emulating, Randolph’s Twitter timeline has grown busier over the past few weeks. On Jan. 18, he said the New York Knicks and the Washington Wizards were involved in a three-team deal that would send Wizards forward “Rui hachamuri” (he meant Rui Hachimura) to New York (Hachimura was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers a week later). On Jan. 23, he reported that the Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves had “discussed Mitchell Rob, fornier” — he meant Mitchell Robinson and Evan Fournier — “+1st for Rudy Gobert.” Earlier in the month, he bragged about having lunch with two general managers. And on Wednesday, he delivered a two-fer: that a deal between the Knicks and Toronto Raptors for OG Anunoby would “be done soon” and that Miami Heat head honcho Pat Riley “really wants Julius Randle.”

These tweets weren’t attributed to any source, though many of Randolph’s reports are — at least anonymously. There are “player” sources. There are team sources. One time there was a “BIG source.” 

Randolph does indeed know important people in the business. He’s a longtime friend of Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, a relationship which both he and Dolan have publicly embraced. Not only has Dolan’s blues band, J.D. and the Straight Shot, performed with Randolph, but Randolph — a New Jersey native and lifelong Knicks fan — also wrote and performed the intro for the now-defunct “Friday Night Knicks” theme rolled out by MSG Networks.

“He’s like an older brother to me,” Randolph said of Dolan. 

Potential Knicks moves seem to excite Randolph most. When the Knicks are in the news, his reports come fast and frequent. They also feature minutiae — negotiation specifics, artificial deadlines — rarely found on the feeds of trusted insiders. Because of Randolph’s known connection to Dolan, these reports are hard to ignore.

“You know, I’m friends with so many owners, team GMs and all that, it’s one of the cool parts about being a musician, you get to meet all these different people,” Randolph told me. “So, you know, I try to let people know when information is coming when I can. It’s fun. It makes for fun Twitter talk.”

Randolph said music is usually the foundation of these relationships. “A lot of these people are fans and come to our shows,” he said. “A lot of different owners and team employees are musicians.” 

Dolan is just one example. Randolph listed Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft and owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers who died in 2018, as another. Randolph said Allen would sometimes call him up and propose going on vacation together “and playing some music.” Those relationships begat more relationships and soon, Randolph said, he was becoming privy to all sorts of insidery sports gossip that was catnip for a diehard fan like himself.

“Everybody assumes everything I get is from Dolan,” Randolph told me. “But that’s not the deal.” 

So how often does he reach out to his sources for information? “All the time,” he replied.

It was August when we spoke. Randolph was walking around a New Jersey Home Depot trying to find some burgundy paint for his house. Like any good insider, though, he made sure to keep monitoring his phone for updates on one of the NBA’s biggest offseason storylines: The Knicks’ pursuit of All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell.

“If something comes, I’m ready,” he said. 

Randolph had spent the previous few months tweeting out scoops on the trade negotiations between the Knicks and Mitchell’s then-team, the Utah Jazz. For example, on March 30 Randolph purported to have insight into which Knicks players the Jazz wanted.

He spent the summer using Twitter to assure Knicks fans that Mitchell would soon be suiting up for their team. “Donovan Mitchell is going to be a Knick,” he told me in August. “That’s been done for a year.” 

Three weeks later, Mitchell was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. To be fair, Mitchell has acknowledged that he, too, believed he would be dealt to the Knicks. “I thought that was happening,” he told The Athletic in November. But the swing-and-a-miss from Randolph did fit a trend.   

In March 2022, he’d tweeted that Knicks center Mitchell Robinson would not be returning to the team the following season. He attributed that report to a “source.”

 On June 1, the Knicks and Robinson agreed to a four-year, $60 million deal. 

Thirty days later, Randolph tweeted that a “source” had told him that Anthony Davis was “likely coming to NY.” Davis is in the third year of a five-year contract he signed with the Lakers, and there has yet to be any indication that he or Los Angeles are interested in a change. 

Through a spokesperson, Randolph declined a follow-up interview to discuss how he got his Mitchell reporting wrong. I did, however, get a chance during our interview to ask him about his many erroneous reports. 

“I don’t get bad info,” he said. I pointed out how Robinson, contrary to his June report, had indeed re-signed with the Knicks. 

“Listen, that wasn’t supposed to happen, but there’s some stuff that went on where he told the team that he really wanted to be back,” Randolph said. “I will tell you that of all the news I do, that one was probably one of the biggest shockers. He really wasn’t coming back. I mean, I’m not the only one that knows that. Plenty other people know that too. It was pretty much a done deal.”

Maybe a more seasoned reporter would have waited for confirmation before putting out the report. Randolph feels differently. He’s not worried about small details, nor is he planning on letting a few misfires get in the way of his hobby. 

“It’s not like I’m giving away news,” he said. “I just say, ‘Hey, this is what it is.’”

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports and the author of Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports. Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.

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