J.J. Redick is going to have a greatly expanded role on games and the NBA Draft as part of a new three-year deal that will cement him as a main part of ESPN’s NBA coverage, The Post has learned.
Let’s look at what is on the horizon for Redick and ESPN
Game broadcasts: Redick wanted to do more games, and that is exactly what is going to happen. He is contracted to call a minimum of 25 per year, which is fewer than analysts Jeff Van Gundy, Doris Burke or Mark Jackson, but it is a significant amount.
ESPN was particularly impressed by Redick’s eagerness. Even after he received nice reviews for a handful of games he worked as an analyst last year, he still went to work Summer League games to learn more about how to do the job.
New teammates: ESPN plans on teaming Redick in a three-person booth with Richard Jefferson for at least half of Redick’s games. Network executives love the chemistry between the two. ESPN is still figuring out who the regular play-by-player will be with Redick and Jefferson.
Feeling a draft: Redick will have a prominent role on next June’s NBA Draft. What he’ll be doing exactly is still to be determined, but this is a coveted spot and Redick will be right in the middle of things as players turn pro.
First Take: Redick gained attention last season while verbally sparring with Stephen A. Smith and Chris (Mad Dog) Russo on ESPN’s “First Take.” Redick will continue to be on as part of the regular rotation.
In demand: Redick just made a lucrative deal for his podcast, “The Old Man and the Three,” which he hosts with Tommy Alter, to be distributed by Amazon. Turner also showed interest in Redick for its NBA coverage, but negotiations didn’t go far as ESPN was aggressive in keeping Redick.
On Apple TV+, Mets’ radio play-by-player Wayne Randazzo had the call of Albert Pujols’ 700th homer and Randazzo got it right, focusing on the No. 700 in his call. …Ryan Fitzpatrick had a funny feature on the making of Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football” theme during TNF’s pregame. … Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football” ratings were good for its opening week (13 million), according to Nielsen. They took forever to come out. The hope is the numbers come out earlier this week for last Thursday’s Browns-Steelers broadcast. … Jason McCourty, working with Ian Eagle on Westwood One’s radio broadcast of Browns-Steelers on Thursday, sounded very good. For a rookie, he was strong on getting in and out quickly, while still making a point. … On the suspension of Celtics coach Ime Udoka, Sports Illustrated talker Robin Lundberg had the smartest take, tweeting “I decided not to have an opinion on the Ime Udoka situation until more details are available.” It seems obvious, and Lundberg wasn’t alone in this wait-and-see approach, but others would have been smarter in waiting to find out more before offering large opinions with a small amount of information. … Longtime YES Nets producer Frank DiGraci was the recipient of the NBA’s 2022 Todd Harris Spirit Award at the NBA Broadcasting meetings this past week. The award, named after Harris, an NBA executive who passed away at 47 in 2017, recognizes league broadcasters or executives for “being the ultimate team player and inspiring people to make every day brighter.” DiGraci is entering his 24th season on the Nets and his 20th as a YES producer. He has won 13 New York Emmys while at the network.
Yankees-Dodgers history brings Shapiro back to ESPN
In the history of ESPN, there may have been no more incredible rise than Mark Shapiro. In 1993, at 23 years old, he started as a production assistant on the then newly formed ESPN2.
Shapiro made $20 per hour with no benefits nor guarantees that his six-month contract would lead to another one. He worked on Jim Rome’s show, “Talk2,” and made an impression.
By 25, Shapiro was the youngest producer ever at the network. Less than a decade after that first six-month contract, at 32 years old, he was running all of ESPN as its executive vice president of programming and production.
Instrumental in his ascension was the critically acclaimed “SportsCentury,” series. The Shapiro-led project ranked the top 100 athletes of the 20th century and told their stories, earning Peabody and Emmy awards.
After serving as the executive vice president of programming and production for three years, Shapiro left in 2005 to run Six Flags and then Dick Clark Productions for Dan Snyder. He is now the president of the entertainment, sports and media company, WME.
Tuesday, a side passion project, born from “SportsCentury,” will see his return to ESPN as an executive producer. “Yankees-Dodgers: An Uncivil War,” co-produced by Shapiro, Peter Gruber and Film45, will be on ESPN at 9 p.m.
As part of the SportsCentury series, Shapiro’s group also produced two-hour SportsCenters for each decade. For the 1970s and into the early ’80s, the story that stuck out was the East Coast-West Coast World Series rivalry between the Yankees and Dodgers
“I said to myself, ‘I’m going to do a film on this one day,’” Shapiro said. “There was fury, fire, anger and jealousy, inside and outside the teams.”
Shapiro and company got everyone living to talk for the two-hour documentary, except Lou Piniella, who declined for unknown reasons.
Rob Lowe narrates the film, while George Steinbrenner, Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin and Steve Garvey are the clear stars, according to Shapiro.
“Reggie and Garvey are unbelievably candid and open,” Shapiro said.
An interesting story from Josh Kosman of The Post’s Business section last week detailed how MLB, the NBA and the NHL could buy out Sinclair, which potentially is heading toward bankruptcy. Sinclair owns many of the regional sports networks’ rights to the teams in those leagues.
The trio of pro-sports leagues are expected to soon begin talks with Diamond Sports, which operates 21 regional Bally Sports networks that account for more than half the local broadcast markets around the country, sources close to the situation said.
A prospective deal is looming as Diamond — owned by Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group — has been hemorrhaging cash and could be headed for a possible bankruptcy filing if it doesn’t find a white knight in the coming months, the sources claimed.
This is fascinating, but I have my doubts the talks will ever lead to a deal:
1. How would the three leagues divide the assets? While the NHL might be fine with a one-third split, there is little possibility that MLB or the NBA would. The notion that they would be able to collaborate seems as if it would be very difficult to get past.
2. There is no harm in the leagues looking under the hood to see Sinclair’s business. The largest issue Sinclair has will not change anytime soon — the decline of cable. Even if the leagues wanted to make a deal, they would likely be wise to wait because Sinclair figures to only become more distressed.
3. The leagues and RSNs are already getting into regional sports streaming, but, at this point, this is not going to happen as one entity. If MLB were to get involved, it would only have some of its teams’ rights, but not for major markets like New York and Chicago.
Sinclair has some ownership stake in YES, but the team and Amazon do, as well. The Yankees would not be part of this proposed sale.
On top of that, there is basically no way the Yankees are going to be involved in a revenue sharing streaming service. They are more valuable than all the other teams, so that is not going to happen unless there was some carve out that they would be paid much more than others.
4. Sinclair’s situation is emerging as a significant issue, which John Ourand and I have discussed often on the pod.
These leagues rely on RSN money, and Sinclair (and cable) are in decline. This is going to come to a head pretty soon and the leagues are trying to figure it out in real time. We won’t rule out that they will take over Sinclair, but it feels like an idea with too many hurdles to become reality.