It would be giving the Nets disorganization too much credit for timing the firing of Steve Nash to coincide with, and take the heat off, the latest Kyrie Irving controversy.
Things got so bad for Brooklyn, Jay Williams, self-proclaimed Nets fan, oft Irving supporter and confidant, said on ESPN (one of the league’s national TV partners): “They are now the most unlikeable team in the NBA.” This dubious title will stick. For the controversy isn’t going away.
“With Kyrie Irving there is always going to be something,” said ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.
This became apparent Tuesday evening, hours after Nash was fired. TNT, the NBA’s other national TV partner, opened its pregame show with courtside reporter Jared Greenberg listing — incident by incident — how the coming of Irving and Kevin Durant adversely impacted the franchise. The list included the latest episode; Irving promoting a movie containing antisemitic tropes while selling preposterous conspiracy theories.
Rather than give the NBA a soft place to land, TNT’s crew spent a half-hour, prior to Bulls-Nets, digging into the controversy. This included Charles Barkley calling for Irving to be suspended. In case it didn’t know, Barkley reminded the Free World that NBA boss Adam Silver is Jewish. “… You gonna insult me, you have the right,” Barkley said. “But I [Silver] have the right to say: ‘You can’t take my $40 million and insult my religion.’”
Even the non-apology, apology Irving and the Nets issued Wednesday night was shaky. And by the time he issued a more direct apology late Thursday evening via his Instagram account, after the Nets hit him with an indefinite suspension (at least 5 games), the only thing certain about the Nets is the uncertainty surrounding the organization.
Has the team been irreparably damaged as a TV product? No matter when, if, or how, the Irving situation is eventually resolved, it will not be forgotten. Now, when it comes to likeability, the Nets don’t register. That’s not good for TV ratings. And how will NBA stars going mum on the Irving fiasco impact the league’s image and the ratings for its national TV package?
Last week, when given a chance by ESPN reporter Nick Friedell to put the fire out, to clarify or further explain why he was promoting the movie, entitled “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” Irving said: “I’m not going to stand down on anything I believe.” The Nets first cockeyed instinct was to not make Irving available to the media messengers, shielding him from boss scribes.
Could the negative reaction to Irving’s controversy, and fear of what’s next, cause eyeballs to exit Nets games on the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network? More importantly, could current advertisers decide they don’t want to be associated with the Nets, a team that protected and coddled, a player who endorses antisemitism?
Could advertisers abandon Nets telecasts on YES for the same reason? The Nets’ bottom line, already impacted by sluggish season ticket sales, could be adversely affected by the continued presence of Irving, who once again generated self-centered controversy, and created a huge distraction for the Nets organization and the NBA.
Will the Nets’ internal woes drive more eyeballs to Knicks telecasts on MSG? Lately, the Knickerbockers have not offered up their familiar brands of chaos and dysfunction, although Knicks prez Leon Rose still reserves his right to maintain media silence — unless he’s speaking to an MSG voice.
The MSG Network now sells Knicks’ hope while YES waits for the Nets’ next shoe to drop. Those current YES promos featuring superstars Durant and Irving are more discouraging than encouraging potential viewers to watch Nets basketball. They don’t produce the same star shine they did when the pair first arrived in Brooklyn.
And now, besides Irving’s upcoming meeting with commissioner Adam Silver, all interested parties can look forward to the coming of coach Ime Udoka, who was sitting out a one-year suspension from the Celtics for an improper relationship with a female subordinate. Another Nets mess?
At least until Irving issues another proclamation. Or Durant plots to get another coach fired.
NOT GREAT, SCOTT
Never shy about critiquing the media, Bart Scott, accused Gang Green scribes of creating turmoil inside the Jets locker room based on Elijah Moore’s reaction to not being targeted by Zach Wilson.
Scott, who famously conducted a one-man boycott of the media while playing for the Jets, introduced his theory on SNY’s Jets postgame show last Sunday, after video of Moore’s interview aired. It was the wideout’s first media gab session since he was sent home by the organization after arguing with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur.
Scott was miffed over reporters repeatedly asking Moore the same questions (Why was he not being targeted?) in different ways. “It’s always where can we poke? Where can we pry?” Scott said on SNY. ”If all you can do is ask the same question, go kick rocks.”
Still, didn’t Moore’s own reaction trigger the controversy? Maybe Scott is not familiar with the old line: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. On this occasion the scribes were doing their job They are paid to be persistent. Scott should know that. After all, he has been a media member (SNY, CBS, WFAN, ESPN) for quite a while.
THE NUMBERS LIE?
It’s so confusing?
On 1050-AM, the home of ESPN Radio’s national programming in NYC, a promo often airs saying “The Michael Kay Show” (ESPN-98.7) “is the number one rated (sports talk) show in afternoon drive” in the New York market.
But history shows, WFAN’s Craig Carton and Evan Roberts program holding an edge over the Kay show on 98.7. Nielsen Audio’s recently released Fall book shows that trend continuing. Carton/Roberts notched a 6.8 share while the Kay soiree recorded a 3.5 share.
Either ESPN suits are not monitoring 1050-AM for stale promos or they are bending the truth.
ON THE MOVE
It’s not like they have been sent to Nosebleed City to call Knicks games on MSG, but Mike Breen and Walt (Clyde) Frazier have moved.
Anyone watching can see the two veteran voices positioned at a small table near the Knicks bench. For many moons they had been stationed on the opposite side at mid-court. Turns out the Knicks took the opportunity to sell seats in the former mid-court broadcasters’ location.
While the voices can likely now hear the chatter on the Knicks bench, we’ve noticed Breen, in order to see what’s going on, being forced to peak around an official who winds up in front of him. A small price to pay for being voice of the Knicks.
AROUND THE DIAL
Congratulations to Suzyn (Ma Pinstripe) Waldman and Christopher (Mad Dog) Russo for being officially inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame Tuesday night in Chicago. In the time they had to speak, both voices emotionally captured the ups and downs of their careers. Memorable stuff. … Give 98.7′s Don La Greca credit for not only saying he was sick of talking about Kyrie Irving, but vowing to stop yapping about the Nets beleaguered star. “I’m out!” DLG proclaimed. … Pat McAfee is so steamed over the NFL charging his company $$$ to use its logos, he is vowing to shine a light on the dark side of NFL football. Wasn’t he supposed to be doing that on his show anyway — before he got into business with the NFL? … After Zach Wilson threw another interception against New England, CBS’ Ian (The Bird) Eagle said: “There’s been a sense of panic around the quarterback position for the Jets.” Will Eagle be forced to be less diplomatic, take a more direct shot at Wilson Sunday, when he works Bills-Jets with Charles Davis/Evan Washburn?
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DUDE OF THE WEEK: RICHARD JEFFERSON
His ability to frame his thoughts on the latest Kyrie Irving controversy, and express them in a meaningful soundbite on Saturday night, signals he is a full-time commentator, not an ex-player hanging out for kicks.
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: AUBURN UNIVERSITY
A school wants to dismiss its football coach halfway thru a season. Fine. But to omit Bryan Harsin’s name from Auburn’s official press announcement is sad, stupid and classless. And not any way to do business.
What Mike LaFleur said: “We’ll continue to incorporate Elijah [Moore] in some of the stuff, along with [Braxton Berrios], along with our run game, along with our tight ends. We’re trying to get all these guys involved.”
What Mike LaFleur meant to say: “At least I’ve succeeded in having all these guys ticked off at me.”