ESPN slashes NBA staff; big changes coming

Ashish Mathur

Three of ESPN's most popular and longest tenured NBA writers were let go Friday, as the network continues to purge its newsroom of talent in perhaps the most noted round of sports journalism layoffs to date.

Gone are insider Marc Stein, True Hoop founder Henry Abbott and NBA draft expert Chad Ford. All three had been mainstays and major voices in the website's coverage of pro basketball.

But that coverage is apparently in for even bigger changes -- as NBA reporting force Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and The Vertical is said to be moving to ESPN this summer.

Wojnarowski is likely bringing the majority of his team from The Vertical with him, and expected to have a major role when it comes to shaping ESPN's online basketball coverage moving forward.

"It will be his show," a person familiar with the impending move told Amico Hoops.

It was widely known in NBA writing circles that Wojnarowski and Stein were competitive to the point where they shared a disdain for each other professionally. Despite being the top two news breakers in the NBA for at least a decade, they don't follow each other on Twitter.

"It's their way of showing the other a lack of respect," a newspaper beat reporter said.

Another NBA beat reporter referred to Wojnarowski as "a bully" when it comes to dealing with his fellow members of the press. Still others within the industry consider him to be gracious with his time and frequently helpful.

Wojnarowski actually wrote for ESPN earlier in his career, but has attempted to beat the network to every meaningful NBA story during his time at Yahoo. Most of the time, he has succeeded, even with the talented Stein as his primary challenger.

Now, Woj and his breaking news bombs are apparently headed for that very network.

Meanwhile, Yahoo Sports' NBA coverage is expected to revert to little beyond the aggregation models used by CBS, NBC and others. However, a member of the Yahoo human resources department told Amico Hoops it's possible one "big name" writer could be brought on to spearhead the coverage.

The HR employee ruled out Stein.

Other NBA writers laid off by ESPN this week: Ethan Strauss (Warriors), Calvin Watkins (Rockets), David Thorpe (general) and Justin Verrier (Pelicans).

Decision time looming for Cavs and their GM