CHICAGO - Having worked the night before, I was still cutting through the fog of sleepiness when I heard the familiar ping of a new message landing at my cellphone inbox.
It was an explosion, the kind that didn't require caffeine or any chemical enhancement for me to regain complete consciousness.
Kai Sotto is heading to the NBA G League Select program, I was told.
My initial reaction was: Wow!!
Seeing a full-blooded Filipino make sure but steady baby steps on the way to the NBA flushed my entire being with a sense of fierce national pride. Damn, I thought I'd never see the day when I can interview an NBA player speaking in my native tongue.
But after the initial shock, a moment's reflection also made me wonder. Really?
All of the NBA figures I interviewed at the 2020 All-Star Weekend here in Chicago where Kai participated at the Basketball Without Borders (BWB) camp opined that the 7-foot-2 phenom can use at least a year in college.
The goal, they rationalized, was to allow Kai to gain some weight and acclimatize to the physical demands that await the professional ranks. Kai, it was pointed out, needs to work on his speed to avoid being repeatedly victimized by drive-by lay-ups.
The G League, with the full weight of the NBA behind it, provides such preparatory tools. Which why I think propelled the sudden swift of direction for the young man.
Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news. I know Shams personally because he once asked for my advice years ago when the Chicago Bulls wouldn't credential him for being underage and lacking a college diploma back then.
Once the understudy of ESPN's Adrian "Woj Bomb" Wojnarowski at Yahoo! Sports, Shams is now one of the best in the business and has cultivated more sources than a DEA agent.
When he breaks something, that report is full proof. Diligently vetted, one-hundred percent accurate.
Kai's representatives, however, were steadfast in denying the quantum leap.
"Homer, I really don't know what that is about. The bald truth is that he has not received any NBA G-League offer," Patty Scott of East West Private said in a text message.
So how do I reconcile two conflicting stories coming from two parties that both have my trust?
Here's what I think is happening.
Shams is right. Kai is going to the G League.
But EWP cannot confirm anything because the terms of the deal are probably still being worked out. And the best way to prevent a leak is to stay quiet.
As the silence grows, these questions are begging for answers.
Is Kai getting the same guaranteed $500,000 that Jalen Green's agent Aaron Goodwin negotiated for, or does Kai start with a base pay of $125,000 which was originally announced when the Select program was launched in 2018?
Will Kai be also paid separately for games and appearances at sponsors' events and other functions during the course of the G-League season that lasts only five months?
Will Kai get $200,000 that he can allocate for a college education in the event that this journey doesn't work out?
Does he get a shoe deal?
The fact that so many blanks remain to be filled is the reason why I resisted the temptation to write about Kai's next move as soon as I heard about it.
Of the countless lessons I've learned as a former newspaperman in the 90s, one edict continues to stand the test of these changing times.
It's good to be first. But it's better to be right.