Simmons Denies Pushing Magic Out Of "NBA Countdown," Calls Deadspin Sources "Liars"
ESPN's Bill Simmons said the unnamed sources who Deadspin cited in a story on Thursday as saying that he was responsible for Magic Johnson's departure from the net's "NBA Countdown" are "liars," according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Simmons said, "Someone planted a fake story to try to make me look bad, and there's a 99.3 percent chance it came from someone in Bristol (which presents its own set of concerns). I was upset; I can't lie." Simmons added, "I don't know if our show will be better or worse without Magic, but he certainly made the show feel bigger. He's one of the most famous people on the planet -- and the weight he carried with current players is just something we'll never be able to match. ... I felt blindsided when Magic left. I thought he was quitting on the show, and I guess on me, too. I took it personally. But then I thought about the whole Dodgers thing (and how into those games he was), and it made more sense and I got over it." Simmons when asked how much influence he had on on-air talent decisions for "NBA Countdown" said, "Zero. I didn't think I was coming back. I wasn't happy during the last two playoff rounds; I didn't feel like they cared about the show enough and had some other issues that I won't rehash." Simmons: "I decided to wait a month or so before I told them officially, but in my head, I was gone." He added, "But as I decompressed during the summer and started feeling like a normal person again, I realized that my schedule burned me out. And, in the irony of ironies, I didn't want to give up working with Magic yet. So I asked to do Fridays and Sundays during the season, and I asked if we could stay in L.A. for the conference finals. They agreed" (SI.com, 10/13).
ROTATING CAST: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote the perception of "NBA Countdown" is that the show "ain’t exactly a model of stability." The reality "may be totally different, but reports of cast members not getting along, or Bill Simmons having control and running a power play, don’t do anything for the image of a severely flawed program that should have been blown up two years ago." There is "no one left on the cast who measures up to Johnson in the glitz department" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/13). In Tampa, Tom Jones wrote Johnson "got a little better last season, but overall, he was the weakest part of the show and is not going to be missed." Meanwhile, Michael Wilbon's role on the show is being "diminished." The "good news is that Wilbon can dedicate more time to his bread-and-butter show, Pardon the Interruption." The "bad news is Wilbon is outstanding on NBA Countdown and will be missed" (TAMPABAY.com, 10/11).