Basketball: Carmelo Anthony rumour leaked to expose Breakers mole

NZ Breakers owner Matt Walsh claims he deliberately put out a false 'Carmelo Anthony' rumour to expose a leak within the Auckland-based Australian NBL franchise.

On Wednesday, Walsh pulled off a recruiting coup, when he announced five-star US high school prospect RJ Hampton would forego major college offers to sign with the Breakers for two years, although he is expected to enter the NBA draft as early as 2020.

But in the build-up to the announcement, social-media gossip lured some mainstream media sources into reporting that 10-time NBA All-Star Anthony was on the verge of joining the four-time ANBL champions.

Anthony, 35, has averaged 24 points a game over a 16-year career, but was unwanted by NBA teams last season, after largely unsuccessful stints with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets.

Walsh told the Barstool Sports 'Pardon My Take' podcast the Anthony rumour was a calculated attempt to find a mole within the organisation.

"I had to throw out a little misinformation to identify the leak," he said. "We're still working through that.

"Basically, I put it out on our group 'WhatsApp'. Everyone asked what the big global news was going to be, so I put a picture of 'Hoody Carmelo' up and about 10 minutes later, it was all over NZ media.

"We've got a big leak in the organisation, so we're working through it now. I think all things considered, we did a pretty good job keeping it contained."

Of course, the "leak" also helped hype the announcement, so not a complete disaster, right?

Walsh, who played two NBA games for the Miami Heat, before embarking on an extensive European professional career, revealed the Hampton deal was done a month ago and kept secret since then.

Hampton, 18, told the podcast he weighed the pros and cons carefully, before committing to the Breakers.

"I didn't really make a decision while I was in my high school year, but after that, I took a hard look at it and decided what I wanted to," he said.

"Maybe some of the cons were missing out on the college experience - that college life - and moving far away from home, but that was really it. I felt like there way more pros than cons."

While some critics argue that Hampton's US brand will suffer from his time in Auckland, Walsh argues otherwise.

"If you google the Breakers, you get Obama, LeBron, Carmelo and now RJ Hampton, so we're not lacking media attention.

"I forgot about Rick Pitino... there's a standing offer on the table."

Walsh presented US President Barack Obama with a personalised Breakers singlet during a 2018 visit to New Zealand.

Last year, the club also drew coverage with a tongue-in-cheek billboard, inviting NBA superstar LeBron James to bring his talents downunder, while also pitching for college legend Rick Pitino to coach the team.