ESPN analysts Richard Jefferson, Jalen Rose and Jay Williams participated in a media conference call today to discuss ESPN and ABC’s NBA on Christmas Day slate. The 18-year Christmas Day tradition continues on Wednesday, Dec. 25, with 15 consecutive hours of NBA coverage. ESPN analysts Jalen Rose and Jay Williams will cover the day on NBA Countdown and analyst Richard Jefferson will be courtside in Toronto to call the 12 p.m. ET Celtics vs. Raptors game alongside Adam Amin with Ariel Helwani reporting from the sidelines.
A transcript of the conference call follows:
Q: Richard, I was wondering if you think that the Nuggets need to make a move ahead of the trade deadline in order to realistically compete with either Los Angeles team, and if so, what players or what areas do you think they need to target?
RICHARD JEFFERSON: You know, Denver hasn’t, in recent history, made too many in-season moves. I think they really do believe in their player development. I think they could make a move. I think Michael Porter Jr. is a person that the only way he’s going to develop is if he’s going to play. I think he would be the one person that I would think they would try and find some space for.
But after that, I think as long as Jokic starts playing the way he did last year and then the other guys around him, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, continue to develop. Denver has always been more focused on development than just trying to bring in talent. In that sense, I can’t imagine them really changing their game plan.
Q: A huge match-up obviously, Lakers-Clippers, will sort of be the headliner on Christmas, and there was a great game last night, Lakers-Bucks and even Rockets-Clippers, but so far this season ratings are down for the league on television. How do you explain the ratings being down, and what do you think might turn it around?
JALEN ROSE: I guess I’ll jump in here since I’ve been around the longest. This will be my 14th straight season doing coverage on Christmas Day, whether it’s from Bristol or various studios, Los Angeles and/or New York. And when you look at the landscape of the league, usually when the schedule is laid out, it’s based on the success of the teams, that either have a bright future by projection, for example, the Pelicans drafting Zion Williamson, or past success like the Golden State Warriors making it to five Finals and three championships. Both teams will be heavily featured on national television this year, and you see the results of Steph being injured, Klay was already gone, and so there goes a lot of the team, along with the Pelicans.
When you look at the Eastern Conference, it was great that the Nets were able to secure KD and Kyrie, and they’re going to be right in the mix for best team in the East next season, but this year KD is out all year and Kyrie is dealing with an injury. And then the other team in their market, the Knicks, have already fired their coach. All of those things are happening around the league.
Couple that with so many of the top players, LeBron, AD, Kawhi and Paul George playing on West Coast time, that’s why the league tried to do things like move the games up 30 minutes and things like that so that they could get the East Coast fans, the people on eastern standard time. For the most part, you want them to be watching those games. There’s a lot of factors in it.
Lastly, I think some people probably initially got turned off by, you know the term load management and/or rest happening and/or being used. That’s why I think the league smartly eliminated it from the stat sheet.
JAY WILLIAMS: I’ll piggy-back on that, too. I just think that we can’t lose perspective on just the amount of content that is exploited right now in this new digital age. I think naturally being around a lot of kids and seeing the way Gen Zs are consuming NBA product, a lot of kids are checking out highlights and things of that sort. So many more people on the move, I think seeing the app and seeing how there’s a lot more games and how kids can be consuming it, it’s going to be interesting to watch how things going forward. Our relationship with the NBA has been incredible, and we have to continue to expand on creating those different avenues to allow access — if it’s some of the shows that we have like with Cassidy Hubbarth and what we’re doing with Twitter. I think this being also more creative in their ideation of how we bring the product to the consumer, as well.
Q: I’m just curious what your thoughts on the Celtics and how they’ve sort of remade themselves this year, moving on from Kyrie and with Horford leaving. They’re off to a much better start with what people thought might be a lesser roster.
RICHARD JEFFERSON: You know, I don’t know if this is a lesser roster. I think they lost some size in Al Horford and Baynes, but you add an all-NBA guard in Kemba Walker and a healthy Gordon Hayward, that’s something to me. I wouldn’t say — their roster definitely has some holes, but I wouldn’t say a lesser roster. And then you add the growth of Jaylen Brown, the growth of Jayson Tatum. I don’t think it’s any surprise that they are where they are. I know people want to talk about Kyrie, but understand that they were very, very good Kyrie’s first year and obviously some things changed, but I think this is a very, very talented team, and I think this team has the opportunity to upset some teams and possibly make an Eastern Conference final run, but I think the holes are areas that are really, really big, especially when you talk about the top two teams. When you look at Milwaukee and you look at Philly, their size in my opinion is what’s going to separate them, and I think that’s an area that Boston is lacking. But I think this is a very, very good team, and they all are going to get better as they get healthier with Gordon Hayward back.
I’m a fan of their roster. I just think that the areas that they lack are going to stop them from really accomplishing what they believe they can.
Q: Obviously with the news yesterday of James Wiseman headed to the NBA and decided to hire an agent, there’s a lack of college stars. You guys all three starred in college, went to championship games. What can the NCAA do to keep their guys, or is the G League a viable alternative to tutor these young players into being NBA players? What can happen to improve the relationship between the NCAA and the NBA?
JAY WILLIAMS: Look, I’ve been big on — the college experience was incredible for me. I think I learned — and J-Rose and I talked about this the other day on air. Playing for Coach K was priceless; I understand that. But it just seems that the NCAA is a little bit slow to maneuver in today’s age. And even announcing that, hey, we are going to give players their name, likeness and image, but that’s going to happen in 2022, and I think with so many alternate ways, you’re going to have players that are going to go overseas, and I think Adam [Silver] recognizes that the G-League is a huge opportunity. It’s why they’re having conversations now on unionizing the G League.
I definitely see it as an alternative path.
I’ll just say this: In every other relationship, the person who gets their fair market value, I know that changes the infrastructure of what amateurism is, but I think all the ancillary pieces around have changed as it relates to amateurism. We’re talking about a product that is in the billions and billions and billions of dollars now.
You know, is that group likeness that’s going to come into play? I know the NCAA doesn’t — the model could change, but the one thing that’s inevitable, it’s changed. You can’t say — their narrative for a long time has been if you don’t want to be a part of college, then don’t be a part of it. Well, that’s what’s happening now. You’re having that with LaMelo Ball, you’re having that with R.J. Hampton and you’re having that with certain guys, what Trey Ferguson has done in the past, guys that are leaving, playing overseas, or it’s going to continue to happen. Even James Wiseman had said, hey, I’m going to go do private workouts instead of playing in 16 potential nationally televised games.
I think becoming more progressive with the product instead of just saying we’re going to do things but actually state how we’re going to do them and act on them ASAP. That’s what the NCAA needs to do to be a competing entity. That’s what they’re going to be, to compete with the likes of the G League or the likes of NBL or overseas in general.
Sorry for the mouthful.
RICHARD JEFFERSON: You actually were shorter than I thought you’d be. That’s the truth because to your point, Jay, when they said, if you don’t want to be a part of college, don’t, the only problem is they’ve put rules in place to not allow you to go be successful. If you don’t want to be a part of college, don’t come, but you can’t go to the NBA for a year. Well, you’re not — and we already talked about, we talked about football, but other sports, every kid is allowed to turn professional very, very early. In baseball you’re allowed to. There’s so many opportunities in track and field. There’s so many things that you’re able to go do that.
Yeah, I’m glad that you’ve got the point that the only thing that’s inevitable is change and the NCAA is one of the last things to change, so they definitely need to get more proactive than reactive.
JALEN ROSE: I was just thinking about our Countdown team from New York, and we all basically went to big-time colleges, Paul at Kansas, R.J. at Arizona, obviously Jay at Duke. I was fortunate enough to go to Michigan and be a member of the Fab Five. All of us have lived understanding that as collegiate students the idea that we were there because of our academics not necessarily but athletics, that was always a misrepresentation, the term student-athlete in itself. Because a coach can get a new job and you can be a terrific student. They can still take your scholarship. I know certain conferences are getting around to try to mandate four-year scholarships, but there are some that still do one-year scholarships. So if I’m day-to-day, that sounds like a job. Everybody around me is making money.
It was one thing to talk about it in the early ’90s, and I’ve seen certain media members change on this just being around the game so long, what’s happened is the information started to get out to the public to start to realize how much money everyone was making except the players. So you realize the shoe deal — just look at one entity, the head coach. He can get revenue straight from a shoe company, from the school, television, radio, appearances, and the student-athlete, as they call them, are slighted out (indiscernible), so they want to share in it, and rightfully so.
As R.J. mentioned and he’s been acknowledging since the beginning of time, it seems, and it frustrates me, that these restrictions not only happen after high school in the NBA but also in the NFL, not in the other major sports.
Q: What can athletes do when let’s say a competing network is showing a college game and advertises the players in that game in college to get better ratings? Isn’t that using the players’ likeness for profit? How does a player, with the rule changing soon, deal with that? Like you said, Jalen, if you’re on Michigan’s campus and see a Rose jersey No. 5 for sale and you get nothing out of it.
JALEN ROSE: Well, now the certification happens when they just put the No. 5 in there, they make you pay to put the name on the back, so they get paid twice. The entire system is designed to profit off of the players and their labor. They’re the people in the arena, they’re the people selling out the arena. They’re in NCAA Tournament games. I know you guys have been, where they allow the early game audience into the arena, let the late audience game in. They’re not leaving any money on the table. The players understand that, and Jay I think talked about earlier, that’s why you see four of the top five projected players likely won’t play in this year’s NCAA Tournament, and that’s something that we’ve never seen is four or five of the top picks not participating in the NCAA Tournament