Transcript: ESPN NBA Finals Broadcast Team Media Conference Call


Transcript: ESPN NBA Finals Broadcast Team Media Conference Call

ESPN hosted an NBA Finals media conference call with its broadcast team, including Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame analyst Doris Burke and ESPN NBA analyst JJ Redick, a 15-year NBA veteran serving to preview the 2024 NBA Finals.

The booth of Mike Breen, Burke, Redick along with sideline reporter Lisa Salters will be on the call The 2024 NBA Finals Presented By YouTube TV, exclusively on ABC.

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.

Q. I guess just sort of generally, what are the things you’re thinking about a few days out from this series beyond the Celtics having to dial with Kyrie and Luka and Dallas having to deal with Tatum and Brown. What are some of the secondary sort of plots to this that are on your minds?

DORIS BURKE: Gosh, I think the first thing that pops for me in this series has to be Luka Doncic. You look at what Dallas did in their last two series. Oklahoma City and Minnesota were both stout defensive teams. Minnesota obviously the best defensive team in the league all year. And Luka seems to solve every riddle thrown in his direction whether it’s a blitz, a late blitz, a double team, get the ball out of his hands.

And yet you look at the Boston Celtics who seem to be uniquely qualified in terms of the types of bodies they can send to him; the fact that they don’t double or blitz very often; can they hold up one-on-one against what is an incredibly talented, one of the best players in the world. I know you said sort of secondary storylines. JJ always likes to talk about it, I love this. He calls them his “Alfreds.” In these kind of moments and situations, a lot of times you’ll see role players have big nights.

So I’m curious, the roster construction chat of both teams seems to me perfectly situated to amplify the strengths of their 1 and 1a players.

So, I don’t know, there’s a million things running through my mind as it relates to the series. I don’t know if I exactly answered your question, but JJ I’ll let you have a crack at it.

JJ REDICK: Well, I think that’s a good start. To Doris’s point, there are, I think 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.

I think Luka is a great place to start, particularly as Doris 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.

Q. Have you had a chance to reflect on your place of history in this broadcast, and also the fact that there are several men of color also involved in this broadcast? How important is it to have a woman’s voice talking about a men’s game?

DORIS BURKE: Have I had time to reflect? It’s a great question.

I would tell you honestly that it’s sort of in the back of my mind. My focus is in preparing for the games in front of me. It’s sort of been my approach the whole time I’ve been in the business. But I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I am sort of mindful that is there something meaningful here, right.

And the meaning for me would be if in some way, this assignment makes life for women in sports easier or somehow aids in their process, then nothing could be more meaningful.

And speaking, in particular, of people of color, I can’t help but think of Candace Parker, who in her work for TNT, to me is just so brilliant in terms of her presence. She’s so telegenic. She’s so knowledgeable. I feel like there isn’t a space she couldn’t conquer; our own Lisa Salters, who is an Emmy-award winning journalist.

The answer to the question is, of course, diversity representation is always important.

But I think the other part of that is, anybody calling their first NBA Finals game would probably be nervous, and I think if I allow my mind to drift too much into that space, it will make that nervousness a little bit worse. So maybe I can push it to the side just for a little while and reflect when it’s all said and done.

Q. This will be the last Finals, as both of you know, prior to the NBA signing its new media deal. Obviously, ESPN is going to be retaining a significant package. So we’ll see Doris down the road. Maybe we’ll see JJ down the road, maybe not. The Nuggets and Heat last year drew 11.6 million viewers. That was down from the Warriors/Celtics the year before, and well down from Raptors/Warriors, which was the last pre-COVID Finals. So I want to ask you, what will the viewership numbers for this series say about the NBA’s popularity if, indeed, that number says anything at all?

DORIS BURKE: Listen, I have no idea what the ratings are going to say when it’s all said and done.

You know, obviously there are certain markets that seem to draw more eyeballs than others. There are absolutely, we know, unequivocally in terms of ESPN’s research, that the two guys who move the needle the most in the NBA are LeBron James and Steph Curry.

What excites me about this particular matchup is that Luka Doncic will have an opportunity to be on this stage for the very first time, and Luka, I believe now is five times straight, first team all-NBA. Making an NBA team and making a first team is extraordinarily difficult to do.

So I am really excited that the casual fan who tunes in at this time of year is going to see one of the great players in the league.

Jayson Tatum at 26 is second to Kobe Bryant. He just passed LeBron James for most points in a playoff career, 26 and under, and his story is not yet written.

I don’t know what the ratings are going to say. I could only tell you that I could not be more excited that two young stars are on the stage with an opportunity to grow viewership.

I do think — ESPN is a business, and our responsibility is to put the players on the air who the fans most want to see. But what is our role in developing stars? You know, Memphis, when John Morant first got there, they were not on TV a ton. So eventually we started to put them on because he was so electric.

You’re seeing that with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Listen, ratings is not something we worry about. I have zero control over that. JJ, Mike and I are going to prep to the best of our ability. We are going to do everything in our power to get the viewer as close to the action as we are fortunate enough to be.

And I just think maybe new stars take time to develop. So that’s the best I can answer because I don’t pay a ton of attention to it.

JJ REDICK: Yeah, I would just kind of add on to a couple points that Doris made in that there was only so much that you can control. So, I don’t worry about the ratings, either, and maybe I should, but that’s — that’s not really in my bandwidth at this stage of my life.

My concern is can we amplify the best players and the best teams; can we celebrate them; can we promote them.

At my production company, we are co-producing the NBA’s version of Drive to Survive for ESPN and Disney, along with Fulwell 73, and it’s an eight-part docu series and will be out later this year.

We had our initial meetings in October, and one of the things we talked about in the initial meetings were, Hey, this could be the year where we see a passing of the torch. That was the thesis primarily as we started, you know, meeting with teams and developing storylines.

And the playoffs have shown that. And Doris brought up Steph and LeBron, and they have been incredible for this league. They have been incredible for our business in the same way that today’s players owe a lot to Magic and Larry and Michael and Kobe. The future players are going to owe a lot to LeBron and Steph.

But there is a ton of stars in this league that I feel like are better than people give them credit for; that are dynamic personalities that have incredible storylines. Two of the guys that Doris mentioned, Tatum and Luka, very different, but you brought up, you know, Luka being five-straight first team. Tatum is on his third straight first team. We have got one of the legacy franchises in this Finals and we’ve got one of arguably the two or three best players in the world in Luka Doncic.

So this Finals feels incredible to me as a basketball fan. My hope, certainly, is that people tune in and watch and my hope is that we get a phenomenal series. I think this NBA season has shown that we are in sort of a transition period outside of the Steph/LeBron era that we had for so long.

Q. Doris, everybody has talked about the milestone that you’re going to do with this Finals series, but just wondering, are there any female announcers when you were coming up who kind of helped you and paved the way? And then, you know, you were supposed to have Doc Rivers as your partner at the beginning of the year but just wondering with the midseason switch, how you and JJ have both gelled?

DORIS BURKE: So yeah, the first part, my mind immediately goes to one of my earliest partners covering women’s college basketball, and that would be the great Robin Roberts; who better to follow her example in terms of not only competence on the air but level of professionalism, how she treated people, the person she was.

And I would also say Jackie MacMullan is somebody that I have leaned on historically in my career for advice and counsel, and just setting the example. To be honest with you, I feel very fortunate to be operating at the point in history within which I’m operating. Meaning that the experience of my predecessors was probably in some ways much more difficult than my own.

And the soft landing spot for me throughout the course of my career going back to my days covering men’s college basketball and into the NBA, the players and the coaches have always been my soft landing spot.

When the game has been the topic, gender has gone out the window. These people have put their arms around me and made me feel welcome, and so for that, I am incredibly appreciative.

I will go back to Doc and say that it was, you know, a fun experience. He had a ton of NBA stories. He brought incredible energy every single day. But I also have to tell you that this is a little bit crazy, and please indulge me with this story.

The morning I left for Dallas, and when I landed in Dallas, the story broke that Doc was involved in the Milwaukee job. And on that particular morning, the night before Joel Embiid had this crazy game and I texted JJ Redick, and I said, “JJ, can you believe this guy? I feel like he barely broke a sweat.”

And he fired back his response in text and said, “Man, I wish they would let us do a game together.”

Somehow the process — I’m a believer in divine providence. The process has gotten us to this point.

And if you’ll also indulge me in this, and I’ll try not to get emotional here (trying to fight back tears).

I could not ask for two better partners in this endeavor. Mike Breen is the master of his position. He understands the differences between analysts and how to get the best out of them. And he, too, has had to navigate a difficult year for him, I’m sure.

He’s never said it’s been difficult, but knowing Mike and the position he’s been put in, you know, this probably has not been easy, necessarily, throughout the course of the year. And there have been moments where Mike’s brilliance has let JJ and I, who are going through this for the first time, this deep a playoff run, going it individually for the first time and going through it together for the first time; and there’s points at which Mike has navigated us through spaces, and I am incredibly appreciative.

In fact, this may have been three weeks ago. I called him on a Monday after calling a Sunday game, and I said, “You know what, Mike? You’re like a great NBA player who I’ve started to take for granted. Because I’ve known you since 1997 when I met you in the WNBA, and I’ve listened to you.” I’ve been a part of Finals crews calling games, and I have heard all his signature calls, and yet somehow I started to take him for granted.

I think it was Richard Deitsch who treated out one day, “If you are going to tell me Mike Breen is the greatest play-by-play in history, I’m not going to argue with him.” I’m going to co-sign on that sentiment.

And JJ Redick, I have covered JJ since he was a pressure man at Duke. So I think you were probably 18 at the time, JJ. He has been as good a teammate on the air and off as I could possibly hope for.

I’m so thankful for both then. Sorry to get emotional. Those are my answers.

JJ REDICK: I’m just going to jump in here. I want to tell a little anecdotal story as well.

I had plans after the second round of the playoffs. I’m not supposed to be here. So Dave Roberts and Jimmy and Burke, they gave me this opportunity, and I’m so grateful for it. I said this when I got the job. I recognized the responsibility that comes with this.

And our first game together was at the Garden, Boston/New York, Saturday ABC game. I just remember the open and working with Mike and Lisa and Doris and Tim Corrigan, and I had been working with this group for five minutes. And I said to myself, “Holy s, — I’m going to get so much better from working with these people.” Like this is greatness personified in this space.

And I’ve known Doris for over 20 years as she mentioned and I’ve always felt this about Doris and I’ve told her this and she knows this, but I’ve always felt she was the best of us. I’ve always felt she’s been phenomenal in any role she’s had. When she started calling NBA games, I thought she was the best of us.

And get to go work alongside of her, it’s exceeded any expectation I’ve had. I will also say she’s been an incredible teammate. It’s been fun to know someone for 20 years and then get thrown into this situation and develop a real friendship, and I just — I recognize, like, me calling this, not that big a deal. But the fact I get to do it with Doris, I’m just — I’m so pleased that she’s my teammate on this.

Q. Basically how cool is it for you to be calling the NBA Finals? You’ve done so much in your media career as you’ve been alluding to. Is this a pinnacle of sorts having the biggest stage the NBA can offer?

JJ REDICK: Yeah, I go back — I’ve been retired a little less than three years, and when I signed with ESPN, I asked them, it was not in my contract to call games my first year, that first one-year deal and I asked them throughout the season, if there’s ever any opportunities, please keep me in mind, please keep me in mind.

Dave and Tim, they gave me a couple regular season games in March of that year. I ended up calling a couple playoff games and then when I re-signed I had a games package.

RJ and I talk about this all the time, and Ruko (ph) as well. If you are doing this for a profession, and Doris, I’m sure, will tell you the same thing. Like this is absolutely the apex of calling NBA games is being able to call a Finals game.

So this was always the goal. Once I started calling games, it was always the goal. It happened a little faster than I thought it would, and I’m just — again, I think it’s important to note, like, I love this sport. I think that comes through in everything that I do.

I am a fan of this sport. And I think about watching Finals when I was growing up, watching Finals when I played, playing in the NBA Finals in 2009, and these are just, like, iconic moments, and I get to be a part of this. I get to be a part of documenting history.

We are going to have one of Tatum or Luka as the best player on the best team for the first time and there’s, you know, for a long time it was four or five guys that could hold that title. Last year Jokic made it six. We are adding a seventh this year, and that’s exciting, and it goes back to what I was saying earlier about the passing of the torch.

This is a new generation of players that are just insanely talented and I get to be part of that documentation, and I’m incredibly grateful for it.

Q. You talked about going to this new team and how you immediately felt you would learn from them but what was that process like of switching announcing teams midseason? Usually there’s more time to prepare for that and lead up to that. How did that feel?

JJ REDICK: To be honest, it felt very natural. I think when you live in a locker room for, basically, 30 years of your life, you’re very used to navigating different groups of people, and you always kind of intuitively understand what people need, what they want, what makes them great.

I think when you are calling a game and you are working particularly in a three-person booth, that you have to be good at what you do, but what you are good at has to complement and help everyone else in the booth be good at what they do.

To Doris’s point, I think Mike does that better than anybody. There’s the reason he’s the Goat.

Look, you know, for me, working with Ryan and RJ primarily for the last two years, and obviously I worked with Dave Pasch, as well, and Mark Jones in two-person booths, but with Ryan and RJ, RJ and I are the same generation of player. Ryan is our age. There was, from day one, just a natural chemistry, and I think there was not a concern but there was certainly, like, a thought, hey, what’s this going to be like.

I had only called two games with Mike. I had never called a game with Doris. And I have to be honest with you, from the very first game, it felt very natural.

Now, have we gotten everything perfect? No. No. But I would venture to say, you’re going to have very few perfect broadcasts. That’s just the way life works. Doc Rivers always used to talk about the game of basketball. The game of basketball is a game of mistakes and in some ways, a broadcast, you can have some mistakes but you can still have a fantastic broadcast. But it’s all felt very natural.

Q. I wanted to get your thoughts on kind of the assessment of the Celtics, their playoff run, a lot of cripple, they have gone 12 and 12, and especially the case with Jayson Tatum, and also the relationship with Jaylen Brown and why didn’t he smile wider enough when Jaylen won the MVP. He didn’t smile big enough. What does this whole moment mean to him? And JJ, I know you probably have a relationship because both you guys are Duke guys. What is your assessment of the Celtics as a team? Can they be blamed for their road to the Finals? Is there something they didn’t do in the first three rounds that you guys — they have do in the Finals? What is your assessment of the team?

DORIS BURKE: I’m going to let you go because as you noted, you’ve been in player locker rooms and you have that perspective.

I have very strong thoughts on Tatum and Brown, but I would like you to go first here. I think it’s appropriate.

JJ REDICK: Overall, the assessment of the team, I feel very strongly about the Boston Celtics. I think there’s nothing that’s happened in the playoffs that is different from how I viewed them in the regular season. I felt like they were the best team, and not just the best record. That is inconsequential to me. I feel like they were the best team in the regular season. And I have felt like they have been the best team in the playoffs.

Now, certainly, you can look at the Western Conference as being a little more wide open. They are probably being a higher concentration of good teams. I think the narrative around the knock with the Celtics in this run has been Haliburton was injured and Jimmy was out; the Cavs had some injuries.

They took care of business. In particular, one of the concerns that I have and has been echoed by a number of people is sort of late-game execution, and the eye test backs up that they have been really good in the playoffs. The numbers certainly back that up in terms of the way they played offense in the clutch.

And so I feel strongly that they are the favorites going into this series. At the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised in Luka and Dallas and Kyrie and J-Kidd, they made this say series and won. I don’t like making predictions at all. This is going to be a phenomenal series.

As far as Tatum, again, I think with great players comes nitpicking, and it feels all very nitpicky to me. You know, he’s, I think, played really well in the playoffs. I used to have this picture when I was growing up in high school of Trajan Langdon. He was my favorite Duke player, and he was in a defensive stance. He was not slapping the floor but he was in a defensive stance, and the quote was from Trajan. It says, “I don’t judge my performance on whether or not the ball goes in the basket.”

And I think oftentimes with Tatum, we get so obsessed with his jump-shooting numbers, and we don’t focus on all of the other things that he does on a basketball floor at an elite level, and in particular, I think his play-making, his decision-making, has gotten better over the last two seasons. His assist numbers back that up, right. His ability to defend; his ability to rebound the basketball. Doris and I agree on this: He’s certainly at his best when he puts his head down and gets to the basket and creates havoc that way.

He’s been great in the playoffs. Has he had some stretches where the jumpshot hasn’t gone down? Sure.

In terms of the smile or non-smile, I don’t really care about that. I think it’s hogwash. Jaylen and Jayson have had an incredible partnership now for a number of years, and I know how much those guys are excited for each other’s success.

DORIS BURKE: So as it relates to the Boston Celtics, I have admired their approach throughout the course of this entire season. The reason I say that is you have two young stars in Jayson and Jaylen who definitely bring a level of personal ambition to their basketball careers. But what they have displayed this season beyond measure is a commitment to team.

And JJ mentioned Jrue Holiday and his willingness to adapt to any role. Kristaps Porzingis, one of the first quotes I wrote down this season was, he said something along the lines, and forgive me, I don’t have it right in front of me but he said something like: I don’t really give a damn who takes the shots as long as we are winning and getting the right shots.

I think it would be hard to not admire the way the entire group has been diligent about the process that has brought them to the pinnacle of their sport and now an opportunity to go and get their ultimate goal.

As it relates to Jayson Tatum, I’ve never understood, and I’ve pushed back as hard as my opportunity would allow on the narratives surrounding this young man. He’s 26 years old. He’s played, I believe, 102 playoff games with Jaylen Brown. They have achieved an incredible measure of success at 26 and 27 years old.

And I do not believe that it’s mutually exclusive that he can be thrilled that Jaylen Brown was named the Eastern Conference Finals MVP and still have a level of personal ambition. That’s what pushes that young man to greatness.

But both guys have been willing to relinquish shots to use their dynamic driving ability to put pressure at the rim to then, you know, flex into their three-point shooting and the swing-swing game that makes them pretty to watch.

Can you nitpick? Do I hear a little — I think Chad described it as a rumble in the TD Garden if it’s an isolation situation and maybe the Celtics tempo has slowed. You know, I just don’t think it’s mutually exclusive.

And I don’t believe for one single second he was upset that Jaylen won that award. I don’t believe it. And I was a voter, and I can tell you how razor thin that margin was, and I would not have been wrong if I voted Jayson Tatum the Eastern Conference MVP. That’s how close that was.

I just don’t think those ideas are mutually exclusive, and I just have the ultimate respect and admiration for this entire group.

And I would say exactly the same thing about the Dallas Mavericks. Both these teams know who they are and how they win, and who supposed to get the right shots when. And all the pieces around the two stars are nothing but committed to raising the level and amplifying and maybe covering up for some weaknesses of the other, players on their team.

So I don’t know if I answered your question, but sometimes the narrative around Jayson Tatum drives me absolutely crazy.

Q. Going into the assignment in terms of how you are preparing and how you’re getting ready to call these games between Boston and Dallas starting on Thursday, do you notice anything, I guess, different in the way that you’re approaching your preparation process considering that these are the pinnacle games of the season, the Championship round on ABC?

DORIS BURKE: For me my preparation is fairly consistent every single day. You know, in the regular season, I’m generally if I’m not working a game I’m watching two games per night. One might be on my iPad and another one on my television screen.

I think most people who do the jobs that JJ and I do, and Mike, we are NBA fans first and foremost. JJ touched on that already. So you are watching a ton of tape. You might be watching individual breakdowns of players. You know, the first thing I did was watch the March matchup between these two teams to try to get a sense of, you know, is Boston doubling Luka Doncic, who is getting the assignment, and then you’re reading every article. These people in the local markets do such an incredible job of providing context. They are into the milieu of these teams every single day. So if you’re not reading them, you’re making a mistake.

And then you’re studying the numbers and trying to talk to the players and the coaches. I feel like preparation is preparation, and the way you go about it is probably your own style.

JJ has 5 million podcasts that he’s a part of; so he’s preparing for any number of different assignments.

JJ REDICK: Yeah, I would say my preparation doesn’t change. The fun part for me during this stretch was we got a number of the Mavs/Clippers games in Round 1. We got a number of the Pacers/Knicks games in Round 2, and we got Eastern Conference Finals.

For me, it has not been just about calling the Conference Finals and having two teams to focus on. It’s really been about the first two rounds I think preparing me in some ways because prior to this year, I was bouncing around series. I never really got the same matchups.

There was familiarity with the two teams that goes a little bit beyond just the regular season. You certainly have times where you maybe call, you know, two or three games of the same team in a month but against different opponents.

This has been really cool for me. I think the only difference between, let’s say, a regular season game and a porch game, and as you get further and further in the playoffs, is the amount of information we get. You have to really sort through because, you know, whether it is the articles, whether it is our sig notes, it’s just more information.

I think as you prepare for a broadcast, you know, I keep six to eight pages of notes for every game. I think it’s figuring out what do you want on those six to eight pages of notes because it could very well turn into 15 to 20 in the playoffs and then you’re just staring at a pile of papers and you’re like, I am overwhelmed, right.

It’s really just whittling the information down to what you think is important for the broadcast.

Q. I have a historical kind of a question for you. The Kyrie and Luka backcourt has been viewed as one of the most accomplished — one of the best in history in recent discourse and I’m wondering what you guys think of that narrative and also the Jrue Holiday/Derrick White backcourt, how you think they matchup?

DORIS BURKE: First of all, I thought was such an intriguing part of the conversations in TNT’s coverage of those Western Conference Finals. I do not love to participate in all-time best conversations.

Stan Van Gundy is obviously incredibly well-equipped and has an incredibly long history in which he’s operating, but I always found trying to compare era is incredibly difficult.

And so I am thrilled for the matchups we have in terms of the backcourt. JJ I will let you answer that because you are a player.

I would just say this about Jrue and Derrick White: You know, I think it was Zach Lowe who basically described Derrick White as being outside the lexicon of our current basketball knowledge to describe the kind of player he is. He’s retired from JJ’s Hall of Fame — what was the name of it, the Alfred Hall of Fame.

JJ REDICK: He’s been immortalized in the Alfred Hall of Fame. He’s graduated from being an Alfred. He is no longer and Alfred to me.

DORIS BURKE: Two guys, just a complete level of professionalism. Humility. Commitment to team. Willing to do the dirty work. Game-changing abilities on the defensive end of the floor. I’m wondering if Jaylen Brown is going to get the initial assignment because I think from a physical standpoint he’s the best matchup for Luka Doncic.

JJ REDICK: Yeah, you know, I know you guys think I’m being tongue-in-cheek, I also hate the era comparisons. And I’ve actually since I’ve retired, I’ve been very consistent in this; that players should be celebrated for what they were able to accomplish in their era, and we don’t have time machines.

So it’s hard to sort of compare Luka and Kyrie versus any other backcourt in history. I think it’s fair to say that offensively they are as talented as any backcourt in NBA history.

To answer the second question, I don’t know what the matchups end up being. To start the series, you would assume drew would be on Luka at times. Jrue would be on Kyrie at times and vice versa with Derek, and they may go to other matchups including Jaylen Brown.

But I think when they made that trade, I had their first preseason game, and I don’t think even — I’m pretty sure a number of their guys didn’t play. I said — in the open, “This is the best defensive backcourt in the NBA.” And I will stand by that. It is the best defensive backcourt in the NBA.

This team in particular is as well-equipped in terms of that matchup against Kyrie and Luka as any team does. That mean that Kyrie and Luka are not going to score 28 and 30 a game in this series? No. It doesn’t mean that. They are just insanely good offensive players.

But certainly Boston has the personnel to hopefully stay out of two on the ball as much as possible.

Alex Feuz

Based in Bristol, CT, Alex Feuz is a Sr. Publicist working on the MLB, Little League and ESPN Audio properties.
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