SALT LAKE CITY — It's no secret that the personal life of Tony Parker — the All-Star player and soon-to-be former husband of Eva Longoria — has taken on the form of "a real-life soap opera, seemingly lifted from the plot of 'Desperate Housewives,'" as aptly described in the San Antonio News-Express.
Salacious reports of how and why the marriage that joined the Hollywood and hoops worlds at the altar three years ago was about to dissolve quickly spread like wildfire from TMZ and Twitter to tabloids to, yes, even sports sections and shows — and everywhere in between.
A cloud of gossip, no doubt, will follow the Spurs from Texas to Utah, where they play the Jazz tonight at EnergySolutions Arena.
That's because when it comes to athletes and celebrities and juicy rumors involving them — whether true or false — enquiring minds want to know, as the old slogan goes.
Without referencing the Parker-Longoria situation — he even offered up a preemptive "no comment," to distance himself — Deron Williams conceded that reality exists. But the Jazz's biggest star doesn't like the invasive evolution of how players' professional and personal lives can become mixed and dissected by media and then offered to public consumption.
"But that's how it is. It's the world we live in," Williams said. "It's a messed-up world."
In a 50-second interview before Wednesday's Bulls-Spurs game, Parker admitted that he and the soon-to-be ex-Mrs. Parker were experiencing "a difficult time," according to the Express-News. But no explanations or details of the divorce recently filed for by Longoria were offered.
"Anything else," Parker said, "is our private life."
That's how it should be, Williams insists. He's among the group that believes on-the-court and off-the-court lives should be kept separate.
"We're paid to play basketball," he said, "not to sell our lives."
Williams is very private when it comes to his family, and he intends to keep it that way. The team captain said "a big reason" he took down his Twitter account last year is that he didn't think people needed to know personal stuff, like where he was and what he was doing. Anybody who tries to pry too deeply into this 26-year-old's life will be in for a less-than-cordial response. His frank warning to private-info-seeking intruders: "I'm a rude person when I need to be, and I'll be very rude."
Then again, Williams might not be the rude one in the conversation, depending on how much nitty and gritty someone might be trying to dig up.
Generally speaking, Jerry Sloan takes that same moral stance. The Jazz coach doesn't believe coaches' and players' personal lives are anybody else's beeswax.
"I don't think it's really any of their business, that's my personal feeling," said Sloan, who'll miss tonight's game to attend a family funeral. "You should be able to go on with your life and try to do the best you can. A lot of people aren't perfect."
The only time Sloan will make an exception and perhaps get more involved, he added, is if personal matters turn into "something that hurts your team."
Parker made certain that didn't happen Wednesday, when he scored 21 points with seven assists to help San Antonio improve its record to 9-1 with a 17-point comeback win over Chicago. He hardly acted distracted.
"I'm having great support from my teammates and my coaches," Parker told media before the game. "I'll focus 100 percent on the Spurs and try to win basketball games."
Whenever details of players' personal affairs are made public, whatever they may be, Sloan is left to wonder: "How true is all of this stuff that they're saying?" And does it even matter to anybody but those involved in the situation?
University of Utah journalism professor Jim Fisher is of the same opinion. He even cringes about how some supposed news organizations act when trying to beat out the competition to publish the 411 on celebrities.
"It wouldn't bother me at all if they actually told the truth and said, 'We are not journalists. We're entertainers,'" Fisher said. "But, in fact, these people are posing as journalists and I'm very uncomfortable with that. They have no intention of informing anybody in a responsible way and every intention of gaining eyes for ads. They sell news like soap."
Fisher believes some celebrity-types crave and depend on news, good or bad. But he isn't sure that what happens in the marriage and divorce of Parker and Longoria or the latest on Britney Spears or even that a former U.S. president committed adultery in office should make headlines.
"Celebrity is out of hand in America, and I think that we spend way too much time concentrating on celebrity rather than talent or influence or brains or a half-dozen other things," Fisher said. "It's meaningless ... but is it ethical?"
That depends. The media expert says if a celebrity preaches one thing and does another, then that hypocrisy might be newsworthy. It's more debatable when the issue — such as marital strife — doesn't affect and isn't related to what the famous subject does for a living.
"Does it have anything to do with their performance on the field or on the court?" Fisher said.
If it doesn't, the topic might be gossip, not legitimate news.
Mehmet Okur takes precautions to keep his life personal, which isn't always easy in his native land considering how the Jazz center is famous and his wife is a former Miss Turkey. He said he doesn't do TV or reality shows, because he doesn't want people to peek into his family's going-ons. He also avoids certain restaurants and nightclubs because he knows Papparazzi-types are there waiting to snap shots of celebrities.
"I like to live my own life, private life," Okur said.
That's not always easy as an athlete, though, what with autograph-seekers and those pesky photographers.
"I'm not a big star or nothing like that," Jazz guard Ronnie Price added. "But I think sometimes people who have a certain status aren't allowed to enjoy certain things in life that regular people that aren't in the limelight can enjoy."
Movie stars, Price pointed out, have it worse than NBA players (perhaps with the exception being NBA players married to TV stars).
"They have people sitting outside their house with cameras," Price said. "I think the Papparazzi is probably the craziest thing we have going."
But Raja Bell believes all the extra light flashed on those already in the spotlight nowadays comes with the territory.
C'est la vie, as they say in Parker's country.
"Is it unfair? No, not in this day and age. I think everybody's kind of fair game," said Bell, who's in his 11th season. "The more people know you and the more people see you on TV, the more they'd like to be in your personal life. I don't think it's unfair."
Bell said players just have to understand they are under more scrutiny than they used to be. The TMZs of the world are out there waiting to pounce.
Sloan believes reporters — perhaps even fans — should ask themselves a litmus-test-type ethical question when it involves putting their nose into celebrities' and athletes' lives.
"Is that fair? That's the question you've got to ask yourself: Is that fair?" Sloan said. "If you don't want to be fair and are not trying to be fair, then that's a sad commentary."