Bob Raissman: Has Charles Barkley really had enough of the NBA’s TV game? (2024)

It’s understandable why a wide assortment of opinionaters were in a state of denial after Charles Barkley proclaimed that next season would be his last behind a microphone.

For many moons Barkley had entertained, and sometimes infuriated, viewers watching TNT’s widely acclaimed NBA studio show. Barkley is not just part of TNT’s cast (Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith), as a broadcaster he is the face of the NBA.

“I ain’t going nowhere other than TNT,” Barkley said on NBA TV after Game 4 of the NBA Finals. “But I have made the decision that no matter what happens (in the NBA’s TV negotiation), next year is going to be my last year on television.”

To assume his “last year” on TV will amount to an eight-month wake, is to ignore Barkley’s TNT “Inside the NBA” history. Even in the aftermath of his unexpected “retirement” proclamation there was controversy.

Kenny Smith recently said Barkley, 61, failed to inform him of his plan before making the announcement.

“How do you retire and don’t call the people that you work with?” Smith asked. “I don’t even know how. So, we’ll see. We’ll see.”

Smith’s soliloquy officially opened the door for anyone else still speculating on Barkley’s TV future. No matter what Sir Charles said (or says in the future), the subject will continue percolating. Some Gasbags will say Barkley is bluffing.

And some of the speculation will come from those who appreciate Barkley’s work so much they can’t envision the NBA’s television landscape without him. It sounds like they are trying to persuade Barkley to change his mind.

Then there’s the man himself: Will Barkley become preoccupied wondering if he will miss a job that’s been an integral part of his life for so many years?

There is also the possibility, while considering his options, Barkley became fed up with the volatile nature of the sports media business. A business that has been turned upside down on a variety of platforms.

Money ultimately takes precedence over relationships. Yet now the situations are even more pronounced.

Did Barkley simply become disenchanted by the way the NBA handled its TV negotiations, specifically with Warner Brothers Discovery (it owns TNT Sports)? Was he distressed by the NBA’s inability to plug leaks indicating TNT would be out of the NBA mix? Commissioner Adam Silver eventually had to apologize for hanging the TNT crew out to dry.

For Barkley, this was not business as usual.

NEW BOOK, OLD FEUDS

The Rangers ended another season without winning the Stanley Cup. What a shock!

For non-Blueshirt fanatics, the Rangers last won the Cup in 1994. That was the same season the Knicks lost the NBA Finals to Houston in a seven-game series.

Both accomplishments came under the regime of Bob Gutkowski, then president of Madison Square Garden. And they are an integral part of his buzzy, behind the scenes memoir, “Gut Punch,” written with veteran New York sportswriter Wallace Matthews, via Palmetto Publishing.

There’s plenty of electric stuff in the book about Pat Riley, Mike Keenan and Neil Smith. And all the intrigue surrounding Gutkowski’s landmark deal to bring the Yankees TV package to the MSG Network is detailed.

So is the cable war between Gutkowski’s MSG Network and Cablevision’s founder Charles Dolan, who would eventually buy the Garden, its teams and the MSG Network (all now run by his son James). Gutkowski’s relationship with George Steinbrenner, and how it played a role in creating YES Network, is also explored.

“Gut Punch” has already connected with certain people.

Radio moles say a Gutkowski representative explored the possibility of an interview about the book on WFAN, but was rebuffed.

The apparent reason: FAN suits are still trying to repair their relationship with James Dolan. In 2018, during an epic rant, then-WFAN talkie Maggie Gray referred to the Garden boss in a variety of unflattering terms.

Guess the FANdroids assume Gutkowski talking “Gut Punch” on FAN would not sit well with Dolan.

SPINNING WITH JJ

While dropping F-Bombs during his Lakers intro press conference can be viewed as an ill-mannered act of defiance by JJ Redick (see “Dweeb of the Week”), it also provided a clue about how the rookie coach of this storied franchise will attempt to manage the media.

As a TV NBA analyst, Redick projected a know-it-all vibe. That won’t change in his new role. With Redick’s high level of confidence, he’s already set the tone and become the Lakers media lightning rod.

Unless he totally changes his attitude, Redick will continue delivering the team’s spin. Never mind the media, will LeBron James and Anthony Davis buy in?

BOOTH BATTLES

Fortunately, the suits running Good Karma Brands, don’t allow Michael Kay to approve the advertising running on their ESPN-98.7 outlet.

On his Tuesday show, an SNY advertisem*nt running on 98.7, proclaimed Mets voices Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Gary Cohen as “the best booth in baseball.”

Kay, the thin-skinned play-by-play voice of YES, in full whine mode, took great issue with the ad, saying he, along with David Cone and Paul O’Neill, are the “best booth in baseball.”

What just happened here? SNY purchased an ad to make its claim. And Kay’s rebuttal provided a testimonial, free of charge, for YES’ booth.

SNY didn’t exactly get a bang for its buck, right? Maybe it should ask for a rebate.

AROUND THE DIAL

Kay couldn’t have been that upset by the SNY ad. Claiming he was trending on social media; he spoke about it again on Wednesday. Kay revealed he’s aware he’s not as “beloved” as SNY’s Mets voices. “I can accept that,” Kay said. That’s good to know, but it’s more information than we needed. … It had to feel strange for Mike Breen. For most of his Knicks/MSG tenure he’s worked with Walt (Clyde) Frazier. And for nearly 17 years Breen’s ABC/ESPN partners were Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. Now, in less than a year he loses JVG and Jax, Doc Rivers (who left ABC/ESPN to coach Milwaukee), and JJ Redick, who moved from ABC/ESPN to take the Lakers coaching gig. Maybe now the suits will play it safe and go with a two-person team of Breen and Doris Burke. … Was it planned or a coincidence? As the Lakers were about to make their pick (they had the seventeenth), ESPN Radio’s NBA Draft crew, anchored by Alan Hahn, was interviewing Dan Hurley, who recently turned down the Lakers coaching job to go for a third straight national championship at UConn. Hurley didn’t exactly drill down on the pick, which was Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht. … Just wondering if Pete Alonso actually hears those haughty, personal challenges (“Show us why you belong here?”) from WFAN’s Brandon Tierney?

* * *

DUDE OF THE WEEK: REGGIE JACKSON

Hearing the Hall of Famer on Fox, recounting his exposure to racism in the minor leagues in Birmingham, Ala., was an indispensable teaching tool. It reminds us all to never forget what so many minorities endured.

DWEEB OF THE WEEK: JJ REDICK

So, a seasoned professional broadcaster like the new Laker head coach doesn’t know, or assume, that his introductory press event is carried live on local TV (and NBA TV) and figures it’s a swell idea to drop a few F-bombs? Redick sounded like this was just another podcast.

DOUBLE TALK

What Keith Hernandez said: “The paradox of tolerance states that if a society’s practice of tolerance is inclusive of the intolerant, intolerance will ultimately dominate, eliminating the tolerant and the practice of tolerance with them.”

What Keith Hernandez meant to say: “OK, Gary. Here is your Lexus, Metsies defense …”

Bob Raissman: Has Charles Barkley really had enough of the NBA’s TV game? (2024)
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