Report: Stephen A. Smith to join ESPN's studio coverage for NBA games

ESPN's constant battle to move from the shadows of "Inside the NBA" reportedly now includes Stephen A. Smith. (Reuters)
ESPN's constant battle to move from the shadows of "Inside the NBA" reportedly now includes Stephen A. Smith. (Reuters)

The reported shakeup of ESPN’s NBA studio coverage now involves a very familiar face.

According to the Big Lead, the network plans to add longtime reporter, analyst, opiner and loud talker Stephen A. Smith to the mix.

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The news follows a Sports Illustrated report that Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor will anchor its pregame show “NBA Countdown,” leaving former host Michelle Beadle on the outside looking in.

Other reported ESPN NBA moves

The SI report noted that Jalen Rose will reprise his role as a studio analyst while Chauncey Billups will move from the studio to color commentary.

There appear to be no plans to bring back Paul Pierce.

Report: Likely limited role for Smith

What Smith’s role would be is unclear. The report states that Smith will likely be involved in Wednesday night coverage, implying that he’ll be a featured studio player, rather than a pillar of the broadcast.

Smith is a busy man, hosting the network’s morning shoutathon “First Take” alongside Max Kellerman and anchor Molly Qerim. He also hosts a daily two-hour show on ESPN Radio in addition to his various sideline reports, studio hits and guest appearances on other ESPN shows.

That he would have a limited but recurring role on ESPN’s NBA studio show make sense.

Working in the shadow of ‘Inside the NBA’

The addition of Smith would be the latest effort for ESPN to find its niche in the shadow of the superior TNT product “Inside the NBA,” which has set the bar for studio coverage in sports for decades running.

It’s unfair to hold anything up next to “Inside,” but ESPN has failed to make its mark in NBA studio coverage despite its longtime access to game rights.

Smith has his following, but rehashing a known network commodity isn’t likely to lead to a dramatic shift for ESPN on that front.

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