Bill Simmons Rumors

Lombardo won’t rule out other talk shows, too, particularly if the right personality comes along. Though he’s tight-lipped about names on his wish list, he acknowledges the soon-to-be available Jon Stewart would hold appeal. “Trust me,” he says, “I’ve already had a very polite conversation.” Considerably more likely is Simmons, whom the network is said to have made a big play for after his unceremonious booting from the more corporate ESPN. Such a move would be straight out of the HBO playbook, which famously provided a creative reprieve for former ABC flameout Bill Maher many years earlier. Though Simmons is said to have several suitors, insiders say con­versations at HBO have focused on a TV show — something Simmons is believed to want — along with heavy digital extensions that make the prolific personality tailor-made for the HBO Now era.
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And the network will ramp up from there, with plans for more of the addictive Robert Durst docuseries, a not-yet-announced 1970s porn drama from The Wire’s David Simon and, if all goes as planned, a platform for ESPN cast-off Bill Simmons. While HBO executives are staying mum, multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the network is in talks for a major multipart deal with the biggest media personality in sports (more on that later).
Not long ago, the Fantasy Focus podcasts, Bill Simmons’ B.S. Report, and a stable of niche podcasts were among the best on the internet; ESPN’s podcasting empire ruled the web, and more or less deserved that success. In just a matter of years, though, the dynasty has crumbled; it’s still incredibly popular (according to an ESPN fact sheet, there were 302 million podcast downloads in 2014) but what was once unique, is simply mainstream. Though the Fantasy Focus Football podcast will still feature Berry and has the potential to still be fun and interesting, once Berry and Ravitz signed off as a team for the final time, the Fantasy Focus ceased to be what it once was. It wasn’t only be the end of this podcast, but the end of the ESPN podcasting that the internet—and even many ESPN skeptics—knew and loved.
ESPN statement on Bill Simmons leaving from ESPN President John Skipper: “I decided today that we are not going to renew Bill Simmons’ contract. We have been in negotiations and it was clear it was time to move on. ESPN’s relationship with Bill has been mutually beneficial – he has produced great content for us for many years and ESPN has provided him many new opportunities to spread his wings. We wish Bill continued success as he plans his next chapter. ESPN remains committed to Grantland and we have a strong team in place.”
Tonight on “The Grantland Basketball Hour” the trio of Bill Simmons, Jalen Rose and Ryen Russillo unveiled and discussed the final 25 players on Simmons long running NBA Trade Value list. And for the first time since 2006 someone other than LeBron James was named number one. Anthony Davis. The case for Davis is easy to make. At just 21 Davis is already one of the three best players in basketball. Unlike most of the other guys in the conversation Davis is still on his rookie deal, meaning that even when his extension does kick in, in the coming years he still will be making less money than most great players.
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Amid all the unanswered questions who the Lakers will hire as their next head coach and when, two team sources strongly disputed that any delay stems from waiting out to see if Clippers coach Doc Rivers will become available because of embattled owner Donald Sterling prolonging a costly litigation battle. ESPN’s Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose each brought up that prospective theory on why the Lakers have gone three months without hiring a coach since Mike D’Antoni’s resignation on April 30. Clippers interim Chief executive Dick Parsons also testified in court Tuesday that Rivers does not want to continue to coach if Sterling still owns the team next season.
“And I really didn’t say what they thought I was saying,” he went on. “You know, the game was on ESPN. I was saying ‘Bill Simmons,’ that’s what I was saying. I saw him sitting right across from me. In basketball, especially the playoffs, there’s nothing more exciting than playoff basketball, playoff hockey. And so emotions fly high, and you maybe say some things that you don’t mean, but it’s all a matter of the intensity and how hard and how much you want to win for your fans.”
Comcast SportsNet New England confirmed the scoop Mike Gorman dropped during an interview on The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich” this week. ESPN’s Bill Simmons will join him as the color analyst when the Celtics visit the Lakers next Friday. Simmons, whose many roles at ESPN include serving as an analyst on its NBA studio programming, has done in-game commentary on occasion on certain college and NBA broadcasts in the past.
In addition to signing a contract extension with ESPN, Sage Steele has accepted the host’s role for the network’s “NBA Countdown” pregame show. Steele replaces Michael Wilbon, who will focus more on his “Pardon The Interruption” show. She will work the Friday and Sunday editions on the shown on ESPN and ABC. Returning analysts Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons will be joined by new hire Doug Collins.
How much influence, if any, did you have in NBA Countdown’s on-air talent comings and goings? Bill Simmons: Zero. I didn’t think I was coming back. I wasn’t happy during the last two playoff rounds; I didn’t feel like they cared about the show enough and had some other issues that I won’t rehash. And I felt like I had done a lousy job with my family and with Grantland in April-May-June. So I decided to wait a month or so before I told them officially, but in my head, I was gone. They probably thought I was leaving, too. They weren’t going to listen to someone who wasn’t coming back — and besides, Bristol doesn’t listen to on-air talent about on-air talent decisions, anyway. That’s a point of pride for them. Ask anyone. But as I decompressed during the summer and started feeling like a normal person again, I realized that my schedule burned me out. And, in the irony of ironies, I didn’t want to give up working with Magic yet. So I asked to do Fridays and Sundays during the season, and I asked if we could stay in L.A. for the conference finals (so I wasn’t on the road for six straight weeks, including the draft). They agreed and then I had to spend the next few days convincing my wife to let me do it. She’s still not totally convinced, by the way. If I end up getting divorced, I’m just going to move in with Jalen and we’ll sell the ensuing sitcom to ABC.
Bill Simmons: Anyway, that’s why the “report” upset me so much — it wasn’t just that someone made it up (and how disturbing that is), but how I felt in real life was the exact opposite of what that “report” portrayed. I felt blindsided when Magic left. I thought he was quitting on the show, and I guess on me, too. I took it personally. But then I thought about the whole Dodgers thing (and how into those games he was), and it made more sense and I got over it. Regardless, I will miss spending time with him every week. Jalen and I nicknamed him “Mogul” for “Hall of Fame Mogul.” We were like little kids around him. In retrospect, maybe that wasn’t the ideal dynamic for a studio show, but I thought we were getting better at challenging him while also respecting him and everything he accomplished. Year 2 would have been better than Year 1.
Bill Simmons: He’s just an amazing person. When [Johnson’s agent] Lon [Rosen] told me Magic was leaving, I actually got pissed at myself that I didn’t appreciate those nine months more. Our interview with LeBron after Game 7 [of the NBA Finals] — seeing the affection that LeBron and Magic had for one another, getting LeBron to open up a little, and being part of that moment in NBA history — was one of the five or six highlights of my career. Jimmy Kimmel wanted me to write a book about a season watching basketball with Magic — he was endlessly fascinated that I spent 8-12 hours a week with someone like that. Magic is a story jukebox. We’d be bored sitting there watching some sh– game and I’d liven things up by asking, “Magic, what was the best fight you ever saw in a game?” and he’d pause dramatically, then he’d launch into some awesome five-minute story and do all the voices and everything. Remember, Magic’s life intersected with just about every relevant NBA player and celebrity from the past 40 years. He has an endless well of stories. I probably heard two percent of them. My wife had a running joke — I’d come home from doing a show, walk through the front door and she’d immediately mock me in my voice (not hard to do), “I can’t believe I get to work with Magic Johnson” before I even said anything.
Deadspin reported last Thursday, via unnamed sources, that you were responsible for Magic Johnson being removed from Countdown. What is your response to that assertion? Bill Simmons: Those unnamed “sources” are liars. Someone planted a fake story to try to make me look bad, and there’s a 99.3 percent chance it came from someone in Bristol (which presents its own set of concerns). I was upset; I can’t lie. Maybe this happens to people more often than I realize, and maybe it comes with the territory, but man … I can’t properly explain how fantastic it was to watch basketball with Magic for nine months. I brought my dad to our show for the whole day once and he absolutely loved it. He just couldn’t believe they paid me to watch hoops with Magic. One of Magic’s best qualities is that he always makes an outsider like that feel special and [feel as if] they connected with him — I probably watched him do it with 50 people last year. To see Magic do that for my father was something else.
In an e-mail to USA TODAY Sports, Simmons wrote, “I loved getting to know Magic these past 12 months and was saddened to hear about his decision. We genuinely liked working with one another. Last night Lon Rosen and I were already talking about other possible projects that Magic and I could do together down the road. He’s my friend. And a GREAT guy.” Simmons tweeted, “My first experience today with someone writing a “sources” report about me that’s not true. Part amusing, part horrifying.”
Johnson’s agent, Lon Rosen, refuted a Deadspin report that said Johnson abruptly left the show because of colleague Bill Simmons’ growing influence over the show and Michael Wilbon’s diminished role in NBA coverage, which included Doug Collins replacing Wilbon on NBA Countdown. “Magic and Bill Simmons got to be very close and continue to be close,” Rosen told USA TODAY Sports. “Bill Simmons and Earvin Johnson are friends. Earvin’s close to Bill. We called Bill before the release went out. Bill has been to parties at Earvin’s house. He’s been to Dodgers game with Bill. He likes Bill a lot.”