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ESPN has struggled keeping its NBA play-by-play team steady; first Doc Rivers, now it appears JJ Redick

ESPN made the Big Mistake in 2023, dumping Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson injudiciously. While Mike Breen remained as prime play-by-player, ESPN brought in out of work Doc Rivers and also hired JJ Redick. But Doc left for Milwaukee. Then, in mid-season, ESPN gave the role to Doris Burke. Breen and Burke both trace their roots through Long Island.

Now it appears that Redick will be hired as coach of the Lakers. He will replace Darvin Ham. Assuming Redick’s hiring will eventuate, he now oversee LeBron James will be under his auspices. LeBron’s told media members that he’d like to hang on for another couple seasons.

From ESPN:

The NBA Finals tips off on Thursday, June 6, at 8:30 p.m. ET with Game 1 as the Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics – led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown – host the Dallas Mavericks with Luka Dončić and former Celtic Kyrie Irving. NBA Finals game broadcasts on Sundays begin at 8 p.m. while all other game broadcasts start at 8:30 p.m.

Directly From JJ Redick

First Reddick played for 15 seasons in the NBA from 2006-2021; He began with Orlando, spending seven seasons, then varied through places, Milwaukee, Los Angeles for the Clippers, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Dallas

His comments on what to look for  (verbatim)

“When you look at certain matchups, and we do our prep for these matchups, you can probably point to three to five things a lot of times. And maybe it’s just because it’s the Finals. More looking at like 12 to 15 things. So there’s a lot to sort of unpack, and the fun thing about calling the Finals and calling the playoffs is throughout these series, things evolve.

Doris Burke

“I think Luka is a great place to start, particularly as Doris Burke mentioned, Boston in the regular season was not a heavy blitz team at all. They were at the bottom of the league in blitz frequency.

“Joe always talks about, you know, expected shot value going into a game and game planning. He gets the updates throughout the game. He gets the updates at halftime. He’s constantly analyzing this stuff. So as you sort of think about the Luka coverage, it could change game-to-game. It could change within a game.

“But I think if you’re Boston and sort of building out a game plan, first it’s Luka and then it’s Kyrie, and then you have to figure out, what are you willing to live with. You’re not going to take everything away from either of those guys. They are just too talented, which points me to the next thing which I think will be a big key.

“We know that both these teams in the regular season were the highest-frequency three-point shooting teams. And math matters in the NBA in 2024. So if as you’re sort of thinking about Luka coverages, Kyrie coverages, how much do you want to stay out of rotation; can you take away the corner threes where P.J. Washington and Derrick Jones, Junior have been so big in every series in these playoffs, both these teams are heavy iso teams.

“Boston does some fun stuff, which I’ll talk about on Wednesday with LeBron on Mind the Game; so I’m not going to give that away. But they do some fun stuff with their iso spacing that’s a little bit different.

“I think if you look at Luka, Kyrie, Tatum and Brown in particular, can they beat their primary defenders; can they get two on the ball; can they get the team in rotation; can they score at the basket against size and length. Particularly with KP, assuming he’s back with Lively and Gafford. Both these teams, from the roster construction standpoint, they are built for the playoffs.

“KP, to me, I’ve said this publicly already, but KP to me is sort of the key to the series. If you look at the OKC series, I think that was probably Dallas’s toughest matchup throughout these playoffs and it was because Chet Holmgren and the spacing that Oklahoma City has, Dallas shot better than them. And Chet wasn’t really able to capitalize from three; and can KP be that spacer; can he continue to mash against mismatches if they do switch.

“And then the final thing, I have about six other things, but the final thing I’ll just add on this call is, you know, Doris and I, we’ve been fortunate enough to call a bunch of Celtics games and we had the Eastern Conference Finals.

“Jrue Holiday is potentially the Alfred that could swing the series. Joe has asked him to play different roles throughout the season. We saw earlier in the Pacer series where he facilitated as a playmaker and a scorer when Haliburton was in the lineup. When Haliburton was out of the lineup, he sort of went back to being the defensive guy and the dirty guy making plays, the offensive rebound at the end of Game 4, great example of that.

“Jrue, to me, could be sort of the Alfred that swings the series.”


Game 1: Mavericks vs. Celtics, Thursday, June 6 (8:30 ET)

Game 2: Mavericks vs. Celtics, Sunday, June 9 (8 ET)

Game 3: Celtics vs. Mavericks, Wednesday, June 12 (8:30 ET)

Game 4: Celtics vs. Mavericks, Friday, June 14 (8:30 ET)

Game 5: Mavericks vs. Celtics, Monday, June 17 (8:30 ET)*

Game 6: Celtics vs. Mavericks, Thursday, June 20 (8:30 ET)*

Game 7: Mavericks vs. Celtics, Sunday, June 23 (8 ET)*

David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year + industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

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