ESPN’s “First Take” might as well be renamed “Stephen A. Smith and Friends,” but two contributors stole the show Wednesday during a NBA playoffs conversation.
Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, a longtime New York and Sirius XM radio host who has joined Smith for weekly appearances, and former 15-year NBA veteran and current ESPN NBA analyst J.J. Redick squared off about how people with microphones — like themselves — talk about athletes.
The segment revolved around Draymond Green, his ejection during Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals and how the Golden State Warriors stalwart addressed it all after Tuesday night’s Game 2, a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
“Problem with how Draymond has carried himself?” was how the ESPN chyron put it.
Russo delivered a typical diatribe of being fed up with athletes talking instead of playing the game. Redick jumped in and criticized Russo for using “the same sort of connotations that ‘shut up and dribble’ has toward athletes.”
“And I have a real problem with that, specifically with Draymond,” said Redick, who starred in college for the Duke Blue Devils and played for six NBA teams. “The idea that America is tired of him — you do realize that the guy has a very, very popular podcast that he hosts where he talks, himself, for the majority of the episode?”
Redick also noted that Green provides studio analysis for Turner Sports.
“Just like in this press conference, he is real, authentic and unfiltered … it’s what makes him great, it’s what makes him a future Hall of Famer, it’s the reason he is who he is.”
Russo replied that Green’s style may be popular to younger fans, but older generations who “watched Bob Cousy play” don’t find it enjoyable, regardless of race or politics.
At that point, Redick became visibly frustrated.
“I’m not saying it’s a race situation,” Redick said. “The fans you’re talking about, they talk about athletes that way. The way you just talked about an athlete. People on Fox News talk about athletes that way.
“I don’t actually care about the fans that watched Bob Cousy play or watched Wilt (Chamberlain) play. I don’t care. I appreciate they’ve been NBA fans that long. But I don’t appreciate the undertone.”
Redick announced his retirement from the NBA prior to the 2021-22 season. He also has a basketball podcast called “The Old Man and the Three.”
Russo co-hosted popular New York sports drive time show “Mike and the Mad Dog” with Mike Francesa from 1989-2008, when he moved to Sirius.
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.