Caron Butler has been through it all. Every step in his life has been hard. Draft night was no different.
Butler's stock began to plummet Tuesday afternoon when NBA general managers began hearing there might be a serious problem with Butler's knee. The rumor was that Butler had been shot in the kneecap when he was 6 years old. Would the effects linger? Was there something seriously wrong with his knee? Teams clearly were worried, and Butler's status as perhaps the best player in the draft was in jeopardy.
Butler's agent, Raymond Brothers, spent the day in damage-control mode.
"Don't you think something would have come out by then if it was true?" Brothers said Thursday. "He took a physical run by the NBA. Michael Jordan called me wanting to know what was wrong with Caron's knee. I told Michael, look at his physical he took in Chicago, he's fine. Then he told me he heard that Caron had hurt his knee in workouts. It was all made up. It was coming from everywhere."
Were teams spreading misinformation in an effort to see Butler drop to them later in the first round? Was a vengeful agent to blame? Or was it just a bad piece of information blown horribly out of proportion?
Butler had an idea.
"There were different types of (agents) trying to humiliate me physically, because they couldn't do it mentally," Butler told The Hartford Courant. "They were trying to come at me in different directions, receive gifts or any type thing, and I didn't accept anything. Since I didn't sign with certain people, they tried to put rumors out there like I was hurt, or I wasn't capable of performing at the highest level, which everyone who has seen me knows -- that's a lie."
It's not certain the rumor caused Butler to go from being possibly the fourth overall pick all the way to No. 10, because Butler also had a series of poor workouts and didn't fit the needs of most lottery teams. But, he was a perfect fit for Heat coach Pat Riley.
"We are absolutely, without a doubt, unadulteratedly excited," Riley said Wednesday after the draft. "We never ever thought he would be there."
Brothers is a veteran of the draft-day rumor bug. This wasn't the first time he's had to save a client from malicious draft-day misinformation. Last year Brothers was defending Jamaal Tinsley from rumors that he was an armed robber, a drug dealer and a point shaver at Iowa State. Tinsley slid all the way to the Hawks at No. 27. The Pacers then traded for him a few hours later.
Pacers president Donnie Walsh said the team had heard those Tinsley whispers, but they knew better than to believe them. "We do background checks. The only thing we had heard on him was that when he was 14 he was arrested. That was it. I've done this a long time. Rumors have a way of getting overblown. In the end you ask yourself, is this a good kid? If you know Jamaal you know he is."
Tinsley spent the 2001-02 season making teams pay for passing on him. Despite going so low, he made a serious run at the NBA Rookie of the Year honors.
Junior college star Qyntel Woods faced a similar onslaught of rumors the past few weeks, ranging from his past marijuana use to off-the-court problems. On draft night, Woods slipped from a top 10 pick all the way to the Blazers at No. 21. His slide came despite passing a drug test. The rumors, in the end, were just too much to overlook for most teams.
"The bad thing is, the rumors are being spread by people with an agenda," said Shredrick Howard, one of Woods' associates. "These people call teams and deliberately try to mislead them. It's tough to overcome a stigma once it's out there."
Woods was candid with teams about his past recreational use of marijuana and assured them that it wasn't a problem. He obviously wasn't very convincing. Just a day before the draft, a number of GMs said Woods -- who has been compared to Tracy McGrady -- was a top-10 talent but predicted he'd fall out of the lottery.
"What happens is, these things snowball," agent Matt Muelbach said. "Once a person begins to slide, then you have a situation where he begins to fall to teams that haven't worked him out. They start to ask themselves, 'What do other teams know that we don't?' "
Luckily for Woods, his free-fall was stopped by the Blazers, a team that had scouted him extensively and hasn't shied away from taking players with checkered pasts.
This type of snowball effect absolutely destroyed Muelbach's client of a year ago, Loren Woods, who went from being a likely lottery pick all the way to No. 46 when rumors surfaced that he had a chronic back injury that would never allow him to play.
"We started to get wind that teams were concerned," Muelbach said. "We tried to get them good information, but I actually had teams tell me that they were convinced that Woods would never play in the NBA."
The Timberwolves decided to take a chance and were glad they did. Loren Woods played 60 games for the Wolves this season. He hasn't had one problem with his back.
Still, it's not always a rumor that's to blame for a player's draft nightmare. Walsh had heard all of the talk about Qyntel Woods and passed on him with the Pacers' No. 14 pick. However, he said it had nothing to do with the stories of past indiscretions.
"I can only speak for myself, but that wasn't really a factor," Walsh said. "I think you look at the total picture with a guy. Woods dominated in junior college, but it was real tough to get a feel as to how good he'd be in the pros. This is a very deep draft, and I think he was pushed down by players who were more proven. You almost have to look at Woods like a high school kid. He's great at what he does, but he needs to learn how to play with his teammates."
Woods, like Butler and Tinsley before him, said he would use the slide as inspiration.
"This is just going to motivate me," said Woods. "Now I've just got to go out and work hard and prove everybody wrong who passed on me."
Chad Ford writes the daily NBA Insider column for ESPN Insider. To get a free 30 day trial, click here.