10 September 2012

Bill Simmons & Stan Van Gundy to be part of ESPN NBA studio crew

For the second year in a row, ESPN is revamping its NBA studio crew. Former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy as well as the "Sports Guy" Bill Simmons will be joining the studio show in Los Angeles, according to SportsbyBrooks. ESPN has been reportedly looking to mix up its studio crew as they have struggled for years to put together a quality studio show. Last year they made drastic changes, moving the show to Los Angeles and dropping the normal host, making Michael Wilbon the de facto host and adding reporter Chris Broussard but they did not really pan out. And I think these are two moves in the right direction.

Simmons is somebody that I have thought to be someone that ESPN should add to their studio crew and he was rumored to join the crew a couple weeks ago. He's very popular, although he does have his haters, and he is a basketball nut, having written the excellent The Book of Basketball, a book I have read many a time (particularly this summer when I ran out of things to read). He is also someone that is not afraid to have a controversial take on something and should add some much needed spice.

Van Gundy is a wild card as he has never worked in TV before. That said, I do think he can be very good. He is known to have a big personality and he also likes to get controversial, as he took a lot of pleasure criticizing referees and getting fined by the league. But doing television is not as easy of a transition as some people think so while I think he can be good, we really do not know.

There is no word on who will be returning from last year's crew of Jon Barry, Broussard, Magic Johnson and Michael Wilbon but while I think the idea of having no studio host is a little intriguing, it also leads to awkward transitions from in and out of the studio from games and can leave things in kind of a mess. What makes Inside the NBA so good is really Ernie Johnson, who is brilliant at juggling the analysts and getting the best out of them. That said, if they were to keep the current format, I would dump Barry, who is not as bad as some say but not that good either, Broussard, who pretty much added nothing last year except for spelling  Memphis wrong, and Magic, who really is awful. What makes the show bad is that it made Magic the center of the attention and everyone basically bowed to him when his analysis is really middling at best. I would keep Wilbon, who I think can be very good once he stops kissing Magic's ass all the time because he could be controversial at times as well like Simmons, and I would add someone like Chris Webber, who is excellent on TNT/NBA TV but is blocked on Inside (although he really should replace Shaq).

Whether or not these moves will make for a great studio show remains to be seen, but at least we know that ESPN will keep on tinkering until they get the right combination.

UPDATE: SportsByBrooks reports that Broussard is headed back to Bristol for normal reporting duties and Barry will replace Jalen Rose.

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