From your TV screen to your Twitter feed, here's what to expect from networks, reporters and more on NBA Draft Night 2019.
When the NBA Draft begins Thursday night (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET), all eyes will be on presumed No. 1 pick Zion Williamson—and @wojespn.
Last year, ESPN and other outlets told their reporters not to break news about player selections until after they were announced on TV. “It’s a business decision that we’re not going to take the air out of our broadcast,” ESPN executive Stephanie Druley told The New York Times at the time. But the code of silence only lasted a few picks.
Adrian Wojnarowski began skirting the rule with tweets like “Source: Cleveland prefers Collin Sexton with the No. 8 pick,” foreshadowing the future without exactly spelling it out. He reached deeper into the thesaurus as the night wore on. Robert Williams left the Celtics “tantalized.” The Jazz had “no plans to pass on Grayson Allen.” What had been a moratorium became a magnum opus for the artist known as Woj, solidifying his place in the NBA’s culture. Now he’ll try to do it all again.
ESPN has given him and others the go-ahead to report what they know, but Wojnarowski is still expected to alter his verbiage and play to the crowd. He has become, it seems, enamored with adjectives. As a result, Woj is almost certain to trend on Twitter on Thursday. The question is whether Fake Woj will as well.
All that said, Wojnarowski will play a smaller role on ESPN’s actual broadcast, providing news from inside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The telecast won’t report picks before they are made and Woj won’t be asked to comment on selections he knows are coming. Rece Davis is back hosting the show, joined by analysts Jay Bilas, Chauncey Billups, Mike Schmitz, and Bobby Marks. Maria Taylor will be conducting interviews. The crew is the same as last year, though Schmitz will play a larger role after a draft season full of increased exposure for the longtime video junkie. He’ll play something of a Todd McShay to Jay Bilas’ Mel Kiper Jr.
Also in a change from 2018, the show will be ESPN’s only live draft presentation. Whereas ESPN offered a dueling ESPN2 broadcast with Rachel Nichols and NBA reporters last year, Nichols will host a preview show from 3 to 5 p.m. ET this time around, joined by draftees-to-be as well as ESPN commentators. On Twitter, a year after producing a live show for the platform, ESPN will instead post video reactions from host Treavor Scales, Peter Rosenberg, Kendrick Perkins, Fran Fraschilla, and Ariel Helwani, the MMA reporter who came to ESPN partly to talk hoops.
In the absence of those alternative feeds, a few media contenders will put out shows of their own. NBA TV will go commercial free for the first 14 picks. WarnerMedia’s Bleacher Report social broadcast (available on YouTube, Twitter, and the company’s app) will include segments from the company’s new Las Vegas Studio in Caesar’s Palace. And Stadium’s show will also air on Twitter, featuring Wojnarowski’s biggest competition, Shams Charania. If only there was a scoreboard...
MID-FINALS WALKOUT PAYS OFF FOR SB NATION WORKERS
Late last week, SB Nation workers ratified their first collective bargaining agreement, which applies to all Vox Media sites (Eater, Curbed, Polygon, The Verge, and Vox). The three-year deal sets new minimum salary and raise requirements, gives workers a cut of profits if Vox sells their work to third parties, and comes with a commitment to diversity in the hiring process.
SB Nation started in 2003 as a single Oakland Athletics blog, rebranding as Vox Media in 2011 as it expanded beyond sports. “We are the original startup that fed Vox Media,” said senior social video producer Seth Rosenthal, who represented the site during bargaining. “So some of the startup-y qualities … issues that a union attempts to tackle, were most ingrained with SB Nation.” New hiring standards in particular could make a significant difference in a sports media field that remains overwhelming white and male.
“Since we began this journey a decade ago, our company has always focused on doing the right thing by investing in our people, so we can passionately serve our audiences and customers,” CEO Jim Bankoff wrote in an email to his staff after the contract was agreed to. “Today we reaffirm our commitment to our values and to building the leading modern media company together.”
Over a year of negotiations produced the final agreement, including a one-day walkout demonstration earlier this month, which began minutes after the end of NBA Finals Game 3. “The NBA Staff … was f****ing ready to rock,” Rosenthal said. “They wanted to cover the game but understood the importance of solidarity.”
SB Nation’s team-specific sites, meanwhile, took various responses to the stoppage. “I will not participate in the blackout,” an Astros blogger wrote. “I did not take this job for the money but because I love being a part of this community.” The Detroit Lions blog, meanwhile, went quiet, giving its readers a chance to hold a 325-comment discussion on capitalism and labor rights.
Most local contributors aren’t included in the union because of their contractor status, though their treatment in the past has led to allegations of exploitation. There is still work to be done on their account, but for now, union leaders at Vox are taking a breath following an extended battle, going back to negotiating in February 2018 after Vox Media laid off 50 staffers.
“I felt like this was a morale booster for SB Nation from the bottom to the top,” Rosenthal said of the new deal. “At least it was for me.”
• Jim Nantz’s cameo on FOX’s broadcast of the U.S. Open was a hit.
• In The New Yorker, Hua Hsu reviewed a new documentary that recontextualizes Marshawn Lynch’s famed press interactions.
• Bomani Jones added to the discussion about analytics, race, and the NBA during a Q&A with Isaac Chotiner.
• Bryan Curtis pondered the end of ESPN’s funding of The PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing, and what it means for the company and the craft.
• LaVar Ball likely won’t appear on ESPN for a while after making an inappropriate comment to First Take host Molly Qerim this week.
• In The Boston Herald, Jason Mastrodonato got an honest look at what life is like for six women making history as minor league baseball broadcasters.
• Busy week for Josh McCown, who retired at the end of a 17-year NFL career and immediately pivoted to ESPN analyst, creating some controversy already.
• Andrew Marchand reported on Michelle Beadle’s future at ESPN.
• Joe Tessitore spoke with Andrew Bucholtz about hosting ABC’s new mini-golf show.
• Here’s an extensive eulogy for NBA streaming subreddit /r/nbastreams.
THANK YOU, INTERNET…
...for a moving poetry podcast on grief, and for giving Jordan Loyd’s parade t-shirt its due.