ESPN continues to invest in what may be the network's new favorite duo. Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons have been together for several Grantland podcasts and were the centerpiece for the website's forward thinking NCAA Tournament second screen coverage. They were added to NBA Countdown this year as well. Now, we'll see Simmons & Rose on Bristol's NBA Draft coverage Thursday night. The pair replaces Jeff Van Gundy and Chris Broussard on the main set along with host Rece Davis and Jay "Wingspan" Bilas.
As the NBA Playoffs rolled along, Rose and Simmons carried ESPN's NBA studio show. The two have an identifiable chemistry and even though NBA Countdown has its issues without a host, it was clear who was driving the bus and guiding the most interesting conversation. Additionally, with Rose covering the college game as well as the pros, he should be an upgrade over Jeff Van Gundy, whose knowledge was admittedly lacking in some areas last year. Simmons will also be an upgrade over Chris Broussard, who was hilariously silent for long stretches during last year's draft.
Miami Heat forward Shane Battier is also welcomed to ESPN's NBA Draft coverage to handle interviews with the players after they're selected. This is an experimental move by ESPN, but one I think could work out quite nicely. Post-selection interviews are always so boring that having a current player in there adds a new dimension. Plus, Battier is smart, funny, and well spoken and has as bright of a future in TV as any current athlete should he choose to head that direction.
One worrying sign is ESPN's release making no mention of college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla on the network's draft coverage. Over the last couple years, Fraschilla has been consistently one of the best part's of draft night with his expertise on international players often saving the day. When we get into the latter portions of Round 2 and the Spurs draft a Latvian big man who's played 11 minutes a game in the Euro League, that kind of knowledge and insight is invaluable.
After shuffling its lineup the past few years, it looks like ESPN has a well balanced, insightful, entertaining group put together for this year's draft. With the draft class rather uninspiring for 2013, the TV guys will have an extra challenge this year to keep interest high throughout the night.
What's so bad about ESPN is they are so scared (like most liberal personalities) that one group or the other is going to be slighted. In this case, it's African Americans who are a big reason pro sports are so popular. That doesn't mean you let a guy like Jalen Rose anchor the show with little to no experience. Not only that, everyone on the panel gets to do everything. One takes them to break, the other brings them back in after the commercial. It's painful to watch. Mike Wilbon is the saddest excuse for a sports journalist I have ever seen. Hey Wilbon, pick a game without saying your 51/49 on the fence spineless commentary. And Magic Johnson is a joke who just pumps Kobe Bryant when everyone knows he's insignificant when it comes to the best player in the world. But they don't want to offend the huge LA market, who in large part, are delusional about the game of basketball. Bill Simmons writes better than he speaks. He has this Boston pansy attitude but elitist at the same time. He rubs me the wrong way and is dumb as hell. As soon as Nerlens Noel gets drafted Simmons and Rose "We love this pick, Noel and Davis can play side by side!". Jay Bilas/Tim Legler are the ONLY ones worth listening to. In fact, they should be the only 2 allowed to talk about basketball, Bilas for college, and Legler for the NBA.
It's funny because ESPN tried to make Chris Broussard -their Adam Scheftler- of basketball, but he's brutal...While I agree they're a good duo and definitely know their stuff, the only down side of Jalen and Simmons is sometimes they get off topic. They need a strong host to keep them on track.
Really, NBA draft coverage? Was the International Blanket Knitting competition canceled? Or is this just another excuse to go back to fellating LeBron James covertly for another 5 days???