The only thing that will definitely change during the NBA season is the calendar year.
As far as the media is concerned, controversy, and dysfunction, always lurks inside every locker room and front office.
Off-court scandals, and media feuds, are just a shot away. Rip jobs are now percolating. And always beware of the league’s next social media tsunami. Even the Draymond Green punch-out video couldn’t wait for the season to get started.
Neither could Stephen A. Smith. On Wednesday, opening night for many teams, SAS wasn’t starting the NBA New Year in the kind of benevolent mood that would have allowed him to cut his “favorite” team, the Knicks, any slack.
Smith was not celebrating the new season by handing out do-overs to Garden boss James (Guitar Jimmy) Dolan or Knicks prez Leon Rose.
To inject more symbolism into the scene, SAS had Knicks Super Fan, comedian Tracy Morgan, seated across from him on the set of “First Take.” After issuing an optimistic preamble to his Knicks’ soliloquy, Smith said there is still frustration that “comes from the top.” Dolan, the owner, in SAS’ opinion, “needs to go.” Smith narrowed down his issue with Dolan, saying the owner has created a “culture” based on “always finding someone else to follow.”
Smith does not see this as Dolan engaging in collaborative efforts, right?
The Knicks “culture,” according to SAS, has a trickle-down effect. He said it dripped down on Rose. It’s fact that Rose, like Dolan, is not accessible to the media. When Rose speaks into a microphone, he usually talks to an MSG Network voice. Smith claimed Rose also delegated at least one negotiation (a possible trade with the Jazz for Donovan Mitchell, who eventually was shipped to Cleveland) to another Knicks executive.
“…You [Rose] got other people on the phone negotiating with [Jazz CEO] Danny Ainge and you’re a former agent” Smith said. “And the reason you got the job is because your experience in negotiating. When something like that happens, it means something other than pure basketball was in the way. That’s the Knicks.”
A few hours later, on “NBA Countdown,” Smith sheepishly said members of the Knicks “organization” called his “family” and asked if he could tread lightly on the team. Smith (was he kidding?) covered his mouth and suggested he might hold his tongue.
Forget about that happening anytime soon. The NBA Circus needs its full-throated performers to fuel the on-court machine and TV ratings. The perception is cats like SAS, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal are more influential than the players. That they can manufacture drama when dealing with stars like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Still, it doesn’t always take a star voice, or a championship-caliber team, to create must-see-turmoil.
For the NBA, it’s business as usual.
THREE’S NO CROWD
Never been a fan of the three-person booth but TBS’ Yankees-Astros configuration is working well.
Brian Anderson (play-by-play) and the analysts, Ron Darling and Jeff Francoeur, have all worked together before. They know their roles and create a chemical balance — blending in rather than glomming center stage. No one is looking to steal the show by getting in the last word.
Most importantly: Anderson is playing set-up man, giving his partners the best chance to shine under the brightest of spotlights.
READY TO DEAL?
At least they are trying.
In a recent attempt to settle the two-year cable TV carriage dispute, which has kept Madison Square Garden Networks (Knicks, Rangers, Devils, Islanders) off Comcast systems in New Jersey and Connecticut, MSGN suits contacted the cable giant to see if an agreement could be reached.
“MSG Networks reached out to Comcast to attempt to restore our programming many times since last year’s disruption, including as recently as last month, only to have been rebuffed by Comcast each and every time,” MSGN officials said in a statement. “We remain prepared to negotiate a new deal at a moment’s notice.”
The dispute impacts about 565,000 Comcast Xfinity subscribers. The deal is over money and how much Comcast is willing to pay to carry MSGN. Fans who can’t access the Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, and Devils on MSG can seek out alternative providers in their area (more info can be found on keepmsg.com).
It’s impossible to predict what gets this thing settled. Nonetheless, when one side feels pressure, for whatever reason, a logjam can be broken. It might help if the Knicks get off to a fast start, or a star emerges. In 2012, MSG and then Time Warner Cable were involved in a carriage dispute. Along came Jeremy Lin. The Knicks were rolling with Linsanity. Knickerbockers’ ratings went up 65%, and the 48-day TWC blackout of MSG ended.
HYPE MORE THAN COACH
While Valley of the Stupid Gasbags, and other assorted Big Blue aficionados, have plenty of reasons to go gaga over first-year coach Brian Daboll, aren’t they forgetting something when they deposit all the credit in his basket?
The players? During the offseason, and leading right through summer camp, boss football scribes described a Giants squad comprised mostly of question marks and NFL dregs. Well, look at me now Ma!
Daboll and his coaching crew led the media-anointed Scrubinos to the Winning Well. And they did plenty of drinking. Yet, if things should go south on the Giants, you can count on the players getting blamed for the collapse.
AROUND THE DIAL
Tony Romo’s comedy stylings are rubbing off on CBS’ Jim Nantz. At least Nantz’s infrequent pops are funny. Like in the first half of Bills-Chiefs with Kansas City up 7-3. Nantz: “Is this late Sunday afternoon or Thursday night?” Romo: “Ha, ha, Jim.” Somewhere, Al Michaels and Jeff Bezos were not laughing. … They are both veterans of the Yankees playoff scene. Maybe that’s why Suzyn (Ma Pinstripe) Waldman and John (Pa Pinstripe) Sterling seem relaxed and upbeat, even when things got tight with Cleveland and the losing in Houston kicked in. … Bob (Rapping Roberto) Costas brought the funk to TBS Guardians-Yankees Game No. 5 in the fifth inning. After Nestor Cortes delivered a hesitation pitch, Costas paused, then said: “I’ll show you rock-the-baby. Rock this!” … There’s no studio analyst on the scene today who is both as thoughtful and funny as TBS’ Pedro Martinez. … Those who enjoy clown shows should definitely watch Fox Sports NLCS studio soiree. David (Big Papi) Ortiz has taken the show in a very shticky direction. … On his ESPN-98.7 show, Michael Kay did a professional job of antagonizing Aaron Boone during a Thursday interview. Boone is paid for his appearances on the show. Is the agita worth the payday? … Last Sunday, NBC’s Mike Tirico worked his 200th NFL game (Eagles-Cowboys). Quietly, with little hype, Tirico has become one of the biggest play-by-play voices in the business.
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DUDE OF THE WEEK: TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
For beating Alabama in a 52-49 thriller. The win broke the Vols’ 15-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide. It also came through the triple-time offense of second-year head coach Josh Heupel, a cat who was downgraded by some fans and alumni because he wasn’t a big enough name to run the show in Knoxville. Now the suits will start worrying if they can keep him — and pay him.
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: NFL SCHEDULING GNOMES
It’s not an easy task putting the puzzle, that is the NFL schedule, together. Nonetheless, the league schedulers blew it big-time, penciling in the boring Broncos for seven standalone national telecasts in 2022. Time to bring out the erasers.
What Robert Saleh said: “He [Elijah Moore] is fine. He’s a competitive young man. He wants to contribute. I’ve got no problem with Elijah.”
What Robert Saleh meant to say: “Why is this kid trying to mess up a good thing? I think I’m getting a headache.”