NBA Rumor: Media Layoffs

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Former player and longtime TV analyst Matt Bullard will not return to his usual role, as first reported by Jackson Gatlin of the Locked on Rockets podcast. Bullard played nine of his 11 NBA seasons in Houston, primarily during the 1990s, and he began calling games as a team broadcaster in the 2005-06 season. Bullard was a reserve forward for the 1993-94 squad that became the first in franchise history to win the NBA title.

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Bullard told Gatlin that he was not given a reason for the decision, and he did not ask. Among his comments, via Houston CBS affiliate KHOU: They called me just a couple days ago and said that they were not going to be renewing my contract. It was a big surprise to me. I felt like the work that we did this year on AT&T SportsNet in the middle of a pandemic — calling games off of monitors, and not being able to travel and be with the team — I felt like the product that we put out this year was some of our best work. I was looking forward to getting right back at it next season, but they called and said that they will not be renewing my contract. So I won’t be back on AT&T SportsNet next season.

Tom Haberstroh: Hey so I’m no longer at NBC Sports. I called some of my buddies @Ethan Strauss @DarthAmin to talk about getting laid off and then we made picks for the NBA season. ✂️ It’s all here, on The Habershow relaunch! Apple:… Spotify:…

“Prior to the pandemic, we had been deeply engaged in strategizing how best to position ESPN for future success amidst tremendous disruption in how fans consume sports. The pandemic’s significant impact on our business clearly accelerated those forward-looking discussions. In the short term, we enacted various steps like executive and talent salary reductions, furloughs, and budget cuts, and we implemented innovative operations and production approaches, all in an effort to weather the COVID storm. We have, however, reached an inflection point,” Pitaro wrote in the memo. “The speed at which change is occurring requires great urgency, and we must now deliver on serving sports fans in a myriad of new ways. Placing resources in support of our direct-to-consumer business strategy, digital, and, of course, continued innovative television experiences, is more critical than ever.”

But on-air TV/radio talents are not completely safe from ESPN cost-cutting plans either. The network, for example, is simply not renewing the contracts of some mid to senior-level talents, or is asking them to come back at a reduced salary. Unfortunately, these media talents don’t have much leverage since few other networks are hiring during the pandemic. “Where are they going to go? Nobody’s hiring,” said one talent agent. “My advice to everybody is whatever they send you, just sign and send it back. Just make it through this year.”

ESPN is laying off 300 staffers and won’t fill 200 more open positions, the company announced Thursday. “The speed at which change is occurring requires great urgency, and we must now deliver on serving sports fans in a myriad of new ways,” ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro wrote to employees. “Placing resources in support of our direct-to-consumer business strategy, digital, and, of course, continued innovative television experiences, is more critical than ever.”

The months-long economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic is sparking painful fallout for media companies. ESPN could lay off hundreds of employees in the coming weeks, sources told Front Office Sports. One source pegged the potential number of job losses between 300 and 700 employees. Another estimated 400 possible lost jobs. The cuts are expected to hit hardest among ESPN employees who work behind the camera. But some on-camera TV and radio talents could be impacted — particularly if their contracts are expiring this year.

Neumann, Adubato and Colón worked a total of 66 seasons as Magic broadcasters. “Our business, as well as many others like us, continue to be impacted by the pandemic,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said in a statement to The Athletic. “We have had to make some very hard business decisions in these unprecedented times, and we made the difficult decision to reorganize our efforts in regard to radio. Moving forward we will simulcast our radio and television game broadcasts. To those impacted, we’ve provided fair severance, outplacement services and health and wellness options.

B/R Mag Deputy Managing Editor Elliott Pohnl tweeted news of his departure on Aug. 24. “So today @BleacherReport decided to sunset BR Mag, taking with it the incredibly talented writers and editors who worked tirelessly to tell great stories.” he tweeted. “I’m proud of my involvement with the Mag for the last 5 years and want to thank all the people who worked as a TEAM.” B/R launched B/R Mag as an ambitious attempt at Sports Illustrated-style magazine journalism in 2016. Beck joined B/R three years earlier as its lead NBA writer from the New York Times, giving the upstart brand more journalistic cred.

Baptist apologized in a statement released to KPRC-TV in Houston: “I deeply regret posting on my Facebook page a phrase that I saw and copied from others as a sample of some people’s reactions to Biden’s selection of Senator Harris as his choice for VP,” he wrote. “The phrase I posted does not reflect my personal views at all. I should not have been so insensitive to post the statements by others. I sincerely apologize to all of those who have rightfully been offended and I have taken the post down from my FB page. It was a horrible mistake on my part.”

It took three words — “All Lives Matter” — for longtime shock jock and Sacramento Kings TV play-by-play announcer Grant Napear’s career to go up in flames, but the 60-year-old’s remorse only goes so far. “I don’t want to call it a mistake,” the Syosset, Long Island, native told The Post on Wednesday in a wide-ranging phone interview. Of the tweet and its aftermath, Napear said, “I don’t even know what adjective to describe it.”

Napear, who insists he did not know that “All Lives Matter” is a phrase often used to belittle the Black Lives Matter movement, became choked up at times when talking with The Post while defending himself against the notion he was denouncing the black community and has racist views. “It makes me feel sick to my stomach because it is absolutely the opposite of who I am,” he said. “I am 60 years old. I will let the track record of my life and what I’ve done for my community and what I’ve done. … People who know me, of all races, I’ll let them tell the story.”

“Demarcus we know and have known who grant is,” said former Kings All-Star Chris Webber, who is now an NBA on TNT analyst. “The team knows as well. I’ve told them many times. They’ve seen it. They know who he is,” said Webber, adding two clown emojis. Webber did not respond to multiple interview requests. “I have not once in my 32 years in doing the Sacramento Kings had any individual from either the radio station or the Kings mention anything in any way, shape or form about me and my relations with minorities, with any other group of people,” Napear said. “That is an absolute disgrace that that would ever be said. That is an absolute disgrace.”

Chris Ballard: After almost 20 years, today is my last at Sports Illustrated. Hell of a ride. I got to work alongside childhood idols, collaborate with some of the best editors in the business, and live out a dream. Best job in the world, I always said, and it was. A few thoughts:

The television play-by-play man for the Portland Trail Blazers from 2003-2016, spoke candidly about the day he found out he would no longer be working for the Trail Blazers. Barrett and his partner, Mike Rice, were both let go from their positions by the Blazers after the 2015-2016 season. Barrett admitted he did not know that phone call was coming. “I had no clue,” Barrett said. “I’m somebody who expects that stuff and I shouldn’t be, but I often operate that way, it kind of motivates me. So that was a definite shocker and I know it was a shocker to the guys that had to ultimately tell me too, even though they had to kind of own that.”

Brian Wheeler, the long-time voice of the Portland Trail Blazers, will not return as the team’s radio play-by-play broadcaster next season, it was announced today by Trail Blazers President and CEO Chris McGowan. “Brian Wheeler has been an integral part of the broadcast team and Trail Blazers family since 1998 and his voice is synonymous with all the many great play-by-play calls over that 21-year span,” said McGowan. “We thank Brian for his contributions to the franchise and wish him all the best in his future endeavors. “

The contracts of the four hosts, as well as producers Doyle and Matt Osten, run through this summer, though it is unclear if the hosts will continue to appear on NBA TV after the NBA Finals conclude. Where the hosts and their program will go and exactly what they will do next is not known, though the quartet has had initial discussions with other media companies. “The guys thank Turner for their six years,” said a statement from Creative Artist Agency, which represents the hosts. “They’re looking forward to their next steps and we’ve had conversations with a number of interested parties.”

Telly Hughes always carried himself with class and dignity as one of Wisconsin’s more recognizable sports broadcasters. And that’s precisely how Hughes has conducted himself since learning he had been relieved of his duties by the Milwaukee Bucks, whom he covered for almost a decade. While acknowledging the Bucks’ decision was difficult to accept, he had nothing but good things to say about the organization. “They just told me they want to go in a different direction’’ Hughes said in a phone interview. “I respect their decision. They feel as though this is something that had to be done. They feel it’s going to improve the product. “I completely understand and respect that. I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had over the last eight seasons.’’

While Hughes is now job hunting, he is doing it in an upbeat and optimistic manner. He’s ready to move on with his life although, on those occasions when he does look back on his lengthy career in Milwaukee, it is with fondness. “I have no ill will at all,’’ said Hughes, who won an Emmy in 2008 for “Our Heroes: A Black History Month Special’’. “I am so thankful and appreciative of the opportunities I had in Milwaukee. I’m a kid from East St. Louis and I never thought I’d get an opportunity to be a part of the NBA. “Milwaukee, from day one, has been so receptive and welcoming to me and my family. I’m really grateful how the people in Milwaukee and Wisconsin really embraced me. It was a good run, a really good run. But I’m equally excited about the next chapter in my life.’’
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June 12, 2021 | 12:41 am EDT Update

Cavs eyeing Alex Caruso, TJ McConnell?

Any potential free agency list should start with Indiana’s T.J. McConnell and Los Angeles pest Alex Caruso. Both are Cavs targets. Both fit really well. Some prefer Caruso. He’s younger, bigger, stronger and can guard multiple spots. Others like McConnell more. Even though he doesn’t shoot many 3s, he’s more polished, capable of filling in as starter, puts pressure on the rim and was the league’s total steals leader.
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The Cavs might also be looking for another center. Isaiah Hartenstein, who arrived in the JaVale McGee deal with Denver, has a player option. Sources expect him to exercise that and become a free agent. Hartenstein, who made the minimum this past season, likes it in Cleveland. But he boosted his value over the final few months and opting in would make him underpaid at $1.7 million. Hartenstein’s preference, according to sources, is to renegotiate a more lucrative long-term deal, staying with the Cavs as Allen’s backup.