ESPN NBA analysts Jalen Rose and Paul Pierce participated in a media conference call today to discuss the 2019 NBA Playoffs. ESPN and ABC will combine to televise up to 44 games from this year’s NBA Playoffs, including the NBA Western Conference Finals, exclusively on ESPN, and the NBA Finals presented by YouTube TV on ABC.Paul and Jalen will be part of ESPN and ABC’s pregame and halftime coverage starting this weekend and throughout the postseason.
A transcript of the conference call follows:
Q. First question I wanted to ask you, looking ahead towards the Brooklyn-Philadelphia series, these two teams have built completely different ways. Obviously Brooklyn didn’t have a lot of draft picks to work with, and Philly kind of stumbled for a few years and assembled a lot of high draft picks. I was curious, if you guys were to put your executive hats on and you could pick a path of which two franchises you would try to build like, would you rather do it the way Philly did and somewhat tank and get higher draft picks or do it like Brooklyn where you’re trying to find these diamonds in the rough and it’s a little bit harder it seems?
PAUL PIERCE: Well, I think every team has their own path, and it’s not — there’s no one blueprint that’s the right way that I believe when you’re trying to build a championship contender. You look at how Philly has done it, you look at how Golden State has done it through the draft. You see how Miami did it with LeBron through trades. There’s no right way. You’ve got to have a great infrastructure for one. You can’t overspend on guys who are not really franchise players, but based on what Brooklyn has been able to do based on them not having the draft picks to be able to put together a team, nobody expected them to be in this place, they’re in a good place, and I look at them as a free agent destination, being that they’ve got low costs, they’ve been able to develop Russell into an All-Star, Dinwiddie is coming into his own, and they have some very serviceable players, and that could be a great free agent destination in the near future.
JALEN ROSE: I agree with Paul. There’s definitely no blueprint to doing it. One of the things I will say is like the Nets turned it over a couple of times and now they seem like they’ve gotten it right, and it started with Sean Marks and now you’ve got a head coach in Atkinson. They’re happy with the player development. They want to take care of him, take care of the staff, and then that plays out with the development of Dinwiddie and getting a new deal and Caris LeVert playing like an All-Star, and then D’Angelo Russell just emerging the way he has. So I definitely give them a lot of credit.
Q. I was hoping to get your thoughts on the first-round match-up with the Warriors and the Clippers.
PAUL PIERCE: I think the Warriors is going to sweep them. I mean, but that’s not taking away from what Doc has been able to do with the team he has assembled because I know a lot of us thought after they made the trade of Tobias Harris that they would be a team looking to tank and possibly get in the lottery, and for them to be in position in the Playoffs speaks volumes of Doc’s coaching this year, and I don’t think he’s got enough credit for that. You know, they’re one of two teams that didn’t feature an All-Star in the Western Conference Playoffs, and he’s got them to this point.
Everything else is great for them. They’ve had a successful season, but I don’t expect them to win a game.
JALEN ROSE: I believe the Warriors will win the series, as well. I think the Clippers will at least win one game just based on the fact that they’ve got Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, and they’ve got guys down low that just play hard like Montrezl Harrell. Gallinari has had a terrific season. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander seems to highlight why this is such a deep rookie class. So like Paul said, they’ve outplayed expectations. You just flip-flopped the expectations of the Laker wins versus Clipper wins headed into the season, it’s just amazing how that happened.
We know who the Warriors are, though, and I’d say Warriors in five.
Q. People are saying Milwaukee needs to have some playoff experience to advance. Do you think they can advance without having been in the Playoffs and without having won a series for 15 years or something?
PAUL PIERCE: Yeah, I think they definitely have the blueprint. They have a blueprint of a championship team. When you look at them, they have one of the top two or three players in the game, and I’ve always said you can’t win a championship without that. They have a great coach, they’re a top-five defense, they’re a top-five offense, and when you look at the characteristics of championship teams in the past, they have similarities of that. If they were healthy I’d give them a better chance, but since they’re missing some key pieces, I think it’s going to be tough on them, but from top to bottom they have the DNA of a championship squad. When you see a top-five player, top-five defense, top-five coach, top-five offense, they have all the ingredients.
JALEN ROSE: And I agree. Malcolm Brogdon is going to be a huge loss, a 50/40/90 guy that also locks down on D, gives some flexibility to the backcourt with Eric Bledsoe. They have shooting everywhere. Lopez has reinvented himself. And it goes back to the question earlier about how to build, and I think it was asked about the Sixers and the Nets. The same thing goes for the Bucks, in theory. It all comes back to if you’re going to have a great player, and Giannis has become that. We’ve seen Philly have a couple of guys that’s going to be perennial All-Stars in Embiid and Simmons. That’s what the Nets are searching for next and that’s what they’re missing. But for this year, Milwaukee does have all of the characteristics of a team that has what it takes to advance really far.
Q. I’m wondering, guys, if the technology existed where you could mic the players where it wouldn’t impact the game, wouldn’t affect movement or anything like that, one, would that impact the play on the court at all? And two, how do you think that would impact the viewing experience if you could hear everything on the court for the entire game?
PAUL PIERCE: I’m not sure how much that would impact. It’s different today than it was say like 10 years ago. Even when I wore a mic, because we did that when I played, it got to the point to where I forgot that I had a mic. I forgot that I had a mic on. It didn’t slay my ability to how I played or what I said on the court. I’m not sure how the viewer would take it or what kind of impact that would have on allowing people that type of insight.
I don’t know. You know, not a lot of talk is being done on the court outside of the basic defense, offense. It would have been a lot better 15 years ago when guys really like talked a lot of trash to each other. You know, you don’t see that no more, you know, so I don’t know.
JALEN ROSE: A couple of things. Obviously it’s almost like reality TV, so when you let the camera in, it feels like it might as well be sitting in the corner and people forget that it’s on, and that’s become a popular industry now, reality television. In sports, however, it’s different because you’re required to be a role model, as well, and I think the balance of being able to be really competitive and be vocal, like Paul will forget that he had it on and he was one of the more trash-talking players, and KG, as well, they were out there barking, but the other people don’t forget that you have it on, and so every time you go up to talk to somebody, you’re pointing and letting them know that you’re mic’d up. Just think about it. Recently we saw LeBron and KD on the court talking. They didn’t want us to hear what they were saying, so much so they covered their mouths. Players are now covering their faces with towels. Like what happened with Steve Kerr and Draymond Green, that level of exchange that he had with Mike Brown. I think if it’s really censored, kind of like when ABC or TNT do the games, and I guess there’s an approval process before what’s actually played, I think that that would be helpful.
And then the other thing is people don’t want to give away strategy. That’s going to be another tough thing to really get, as well.
Q. Paul, did you expect as much flak about the Wade comments as you’ve gotten? What’s been your reaction to the Twitter waves that it caused, and do you appreciate those things, do you appreciate — do you appreciate kind of the attention you’ve gotten even though some of it’s been negative about people looking at your career numbers and comparing you to Wade? What’s that been like?
PAUL PIERCE: You know I don’t care about that stuff, man. I don’t even know what’s going on half the time. Come on, you know me, man. You know that stuff don’t bother me. As a player, I’ve been the same way. I mean, I can’t help, that’s what made me who I am, and you know that. I mean, people can say what they want to say. I’ve always been a villain in this league. I’ve always been booed on the road. It’s nothing new. It doesn’t bother me one bit. I didn’t come into this game to please everybody, to make sure everybody liked me. You know, if I give an opinion on something and they don’t like my answer, then so be it. That’s the way I feel, and people can say what they want to say.
Q. But it’s got to be kind of making you laugh it seems like, this whole last week?
PAUL PIERCE: Pretty much. I thought it was — I thought even like — Dwyane Wade’s last game, I thought that was silly because it was taking away from what he’s accomplished and what he’s done. Why are they worried about — I don’t even play no more, you know? Yeah, I do laugh.
Q. Danny said this morning that the current Celtics team, he goes back to the 2010 team when you guys finished the year 27-27 but then made the Game 7 of the Finals and basically flipped a switch. Is there any comparisons, and what are your reflections on that team when you guys were kind of struggling at the end and were the fourth seed but actually obviously made that run?
PAUL PIERCE: Well, the difference between that team, we had championship DNA, so we knew what it took already. This team has never been to the Finals, how do they know what that’s going to take? I mean, it’s a huge difference. It’s like the Golden State Warriors this year, they got bored with the regular season. You know, we were older, we coasted a lot during the season, and we knew when it was time to elevate our play, our intensity, we knew how to do that because we had championship DNA in that locker room.
If you don’t have that, then it’s hard to really say you can turn it up like that because you don’t know what to turn it up to a certain level really means, to be at a championship level.
Q. I’m just wondering, what is it about Quin Snyder’s style and approach as a coach that has kind of led Utah to this steady rise after that rebuild for a couple years? I’m wondering what impresses you about Quin’s ability to coach this team up and why this style fits this group so well?
JALEN ROSE: Chauncey will talk a lot about this: Teams having an identity. And a couple of years ago I felt when he became the head coach, he started to give Utah basketball an identity, and at the time we were counting around the league, and there weren’t necessarily great teams per se, like Memphis, for example, we were like, they have an identity. Like just what character on the sidelines that ultimately gets played out what they want to have happen on the floor.
And so initially, you’ve got to get an anchor, and Gobert is an anchor. He improves this year in points, rebounds and assists. He’s terrific taking at the rim and guarding pick-and-rolls. He’s likely — that’s the person I think I’m going to vote for Defensive Player of the Year, he’s been that good, and then all of a sudden, boom, here comes Donovan Mitchell after you lose Gordon Hayward, because Gordon Hayward, I was always a fan of his game in Utah and he was on the rise there, as well.
So you lose him and then all of a sudden you get Donovan Mitchell, you wouldn’t think that he was going to be the player that he had turned out and will continue to turn out to be. He set the league on fire, the Playoffs on fire last year. And so now all of a sudden everybody else can fall into their roles. Like if you see Joe Ingles, I wouldn’t think he was an NBA player, but he’s smart, can pass, can shoot, he’s tough. Ricky Rubio got quick hands. He can pass. He’s a vet. So, I’m looking forward to Utah and seeing what they’re going to do in this first-round series. They can’t be slept on.
Q. The Rockets will be playing Utah in the first round after falling from No.2 to No. 4. What challenges do they face in that series, and what does it do to their potential hopes of getting out of the Western Conference due to the fact that they have to play the Warriors sooner rather than later if they’re able to get past Utah?
PAUL PIERCE: Well, I think there’s some advantages to that. You know, when you go into a deep playoff run and each round gets tougher and tougher, guys deal with all types of injuries and things and are banged up, as we saw the wear and tear on Chris Paul last year. I think the one advantage to maybe playing them in the second round, they could be a little more fresh, a little more healthier, not as many bumps and bruises that the first round presents because I know the times when I’ve gotten to like the Conference Finals, I’m sore, I’m playing against better defenses every round, and so you become banged up and vice versa. That can be an advantage to the Houston Rockets. If they’re able to get past Utah and see the Golden State Warriors a little more fresh than they would normally be by going six or seven games with Utah, six or seven games in the second round. That can be somewhat advantageous to knock them off early and then they can see a clear path to the Finals if they can do that.
Q. What challenges do they face against Utah? You were mentioning a couple minutes ago about getting past Utah before they can get to Golden State.
PAUL PIERCE: Yeah, Utah is going to be a tough out. They’re well-coached, they have young stars and great discipline, but I just think the Houston Rockets are so much better than them. The Utah Jazz are just getting their feet wet as a playoff contender, and I just see a different look in the eyes of the Houston Rockets, in the eyes of James Harden, who was my MVP this year. I don’t see them causing too much trouble. I don’t think this series will go past six. I think Houston is going to be on a mission this year now that they’re fully healthy.
Q. I think many of us would agree that the Golden State Warriors are probably the favorite to go all the way and become the NBA champion, and probably the Houston Rockets coming in as the second favorite. What do you see — do you see any other team running these two close, and if so, what are the sort of weaknesses that you see in these two teams that other teams can sort of exploit?
PAUL PIERCE: With the Golden State Warriors it’s their lack of depth. If guys get into foul trouble — this is probably the least — this is the one team that has the least amount of depth that I’ve seen out of the championship run. And with Houston, I think they just — they’ve had a problem in the past with James Harden just having that one horrendous game that just at crucial moments of the Playoffs to where it just really hurts them. Other than that, if he can play at an MVP level, then they have all of the ingredients, also. As far as the Eastern Conference, there’s only one team I could see beating the Golden State Warriors, and that would be the Toronto Raptors.
JALEN ROSE: Interesting. I would say Warrior weaknesses, Steph Curry’s ankle. I saw him roll it on a non-contact situation the other day. The officials. You know, Draymond, Boogie and now KD, they’re going to be on the officials, and that can play a factor with foul trouble, technical fouls. For Houston, making their threes. They still had a chance to win last year. They missed 27 straight threes when they counted the most. And Chris Paul’s health. While James Harden has been terrific, they’re going to need Chris Paul to play at the level that we’re used to seeing him play at when he’s healthy.