Report: ESPN’s Simmons, Stan Van Gundy to join ESPN studio show

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UPDATE 12:45 am: Sports By Brooks, which broke the story, has this update:

SbB has learned Chris Broussard & Jon Barry won’t returm to ESPN’s NBA studio. Added to show: @sportsguy33 & Stan Van Gundy

Which means the lineup would be Mike Wilbon and Magic Johnson as holdovers with ESPN’s Sports Guy Bill Simmons and Stan Van Gundy. That has potential (frankly, I would have dropped Magic, too, he’s not good in this role). It should be better than the old pregame/halftime studio show, but that’s not much of a bar to clear.

TNT is still the model to beat.

8:40 am: I don’t know if this is really true, but I hope that it is.

There have been rumors that ESPN has been looking to shake up its rather staid pregame/halftime NBA studio show. Now we get this tweet from Sports By Brooks:

SbB has learned @sportsguy33 & Stan Van Gundy will host retooled ESPN NBA studio show in LA this season

For the record, @sportsguy33 is the twitter handle of ESPN “Sports Guy” Bill Simmons. He is their most popular Internet writer, the guy behind Grantland and the suits at ESPN have looked for a way to use him more on television.

Word of caution, take this rumor with a grain of salt. Or, maybe a whole box of Kosher salt. It’s interesting and it’s out there — and certainly Sports By Brooks does have contacts — but we’re not sure how real this is yet.

If true, I don’t know how good that pairing would be, but it has potential. The current ESPN studio show — with Magic Johnson, Jon Barry, Chris Broussard and Mike Wilbon — is dull. It lacks chemistry.

The best studio show remains TNT’s Inside the NBA. Even with Shaquille O’Neal as an anchor on it. The combination of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson is fantastic — they are both funny and can be insightful. Chris Webber fits in well as a fourth on that show.

It’s night and day when you compare ABC’s studio show to TNT’s. Simmons and Van Gundy (the recently released Magic coach and brother of ESPN color analyst Jeff Van Gundy) have potential though to be funny — both have great senses of humor — and to have good basketball talk as well.

I’d tune in and give it a chance at least.

Bulls’ Denzel Valentine likely to miss entire season

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Bulls wing Denzel Valentine has had a rough go of it.

A lottery pick two years ago, battled ankle injuries during his rookie year and underwent ankle surgery after the season. He stayed mostly healthy last year, but his season still ended early for knee surgery. Then, over the summer, he got torched in the Drew League by Frank “Nitty” Session, who questioned how Valentine was in the NBA:

And now…

Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago:

Denzel Valentine was originally expected to miss one to two weeks after suffering a sprained ankle on the second day of training camp. One setback led to another, and on Monday the Bulls announced that the third year guard will undergo surgical reconstruction on that left ankle. He’ll miss four to six months, the team announced, effectively ending his season.

The long end of that timeline will keep Valentine sidelined the entire season. The short end would allow him to return late in the year, but with Chicago so dismal, there’s little incentive to rush him back.

Valentine is under contract next season, the final year of his rookie-scale deal. He might need to prove himself to make Nitty’s question still relevant.

Report: J.R. Smith and Cavaliers separating as they seek trade

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DETROIT – Yesterday – yesterday! – J.R. Smith explained why he didn’t leave the Cavaliers when, a few weeks ago, they pulled him from the rotation and gave him the offer to step away.

“I can’t do that to the city and the fans,” Smith said. “A lot of people have been backing me since I’ve been here. I feel like it’s been a new start since I came here. The way the fans embraced me, the way that I’ve embraced the city, my teammates, I can’t do that to them.”

But Smith also said Cleveland is tanking and reaffirmed his desire to be traded. That probably set wheels in motion.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

Smith – who’s guaranteed $18.59 million on a contract that will surely end after this season – carries negative trade value. The Cavs shouldn’t attach the sweetener necessary to dump him. They’re better off just paying him for now.

Because just $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for next season is guaranteed, Smith’s contract could prove useful in a trade.

If Smith would reduce his guarantee with a buyout, let him go. But Smith probably shouldn’t do that without a new job lined up.

So, the stalemate continues.

If everyone is happier apart, all the better. Smith wasn’t making a difference on the court for a team he correctly identified as tanking.

Report: ‘At the direction of his attorney,’ 76ers G Markelle Fultz to stop playing and practicing, see specialist

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Markelle Fultz said his shooting problems were due to injury, and just a couple weeks ago, he insisted he was generally healthy.

But something is clearly amiss.

The 76ers guard finally appears to be acknowledging it.

David Aldridge of The Athletic:

Should we read into Brothers – usually identified as Fultz’s agent – being referred to as Fultz’s attorney? That sounds ominous.

There has been back-and-forth between Fultz’s and the 76ers about who deserves blame for his struggles.

J.R. Smith: Cavaliers are tanking

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J.R. Smith said he wants the Cavaliers to trade him.

But that was right after they told Smith he’d be shut down. He has been playing regularly lately.

Still, Smith isn’t pleased with Cleveland.

J.R. Smith, via Jason Lloyd of The Athletic:

“I don’t think the goal is to win. The goal isn’t to go out there and try to get as many wins as you can,” Smith said. “I think the goal is to develop and lose to get lottery picks. I think that was always the plan.”

And as long as the Cavs are operating this way, Smith is not interested in being part of it.

“Not if the goal isn’t to compete, to win,” he said.

If that’s what the Cavaliers are doing, that’s smart. They need premier young talent, and a high draft pick is the best way to acquire it. Because they owe the Hawks a top-10-protected first-rounder, the Cavs need to tank hard rather taking half-measures.

But I also understand why Smith wants no part of it. He’s 33 years old, and he doesn’t have time to wait around for a rebuild. He wants to win now.

Smith should shame the Cavaliers for tanking. That should be a consequence of their plan, even if it’s the right one. He is a casualty of it. If he shames Cleveland into trading or buying him out, all the better.