October 5, 2022

Bob Raissman: Time for ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith to go after Kyrie Irving’s enablers

Kyrie Irving is a frequent target of Stephen A. Smith, but SAS needs to direct same criticism to those allowing Nets star to be a part-time player. (Evan Vucci/AP)

On his various ESPN platforms, Stephen A. Smith has referred to his colleague, Jay Williams, as a Kyrie Irving “apologist.” Why, because he actually dares to push back when SAS verbally drops the hammer on the Nets part-time superstar?

Give Williams some credit. There are very few ESPN mouths who flap back after Smith accuses Irving of being a habitual slacker who is now using COVID restrictions as his latest excuse to avoid playing. Among the examples SAS offers are the times Irving took a pass when he was “emotionally preoccupied” during times of social unrest.

SAS has referred to Irving as “not accountable” and “not reliable” adding: “I would never give him a long-term contract. You would be wondering if he will show up for work.” Williams drew Smith’s rage after taking issue with his stance on Irving, saying his conclusion is not fair. “I don’t give a damn if it’s a big issue with you,” a dismissive Smith told Williams on “First Take.” “I don’t give a damn what you think about Kyrie Irving. I spit facts, facts.”

Are Smith’s “facts” really just opinions? He’s been dogging Irving since he decided not to get vaccinated leading Nets management to initially ban him from playing road games. SAS didn’t alter his opinion when Brooklyn boss Joe Tsai reversed field, letting Irving play on the road (except in Toronto and in MSG).

SAS always starts his Irving soliloquies by trying to soften the blow.

He heaps on the praise/love, calling Irving “box office” and “a show-stopper” who is worth $50 million per year. Then he down-shifts into an Irving history lesson. One including how Brooklyn’s point guard has avoided playing in the past. Finally, SAS reaches a familiar crescendo saying if Irving helps the Nets win the NBA championship it would put a permanent stain on the NBA.

“It ain’t good for basketball,” SAS said during one of his Irving tirades. “If the Brooklyn Nets win (the NBA title) you got a part-time player, you got players endorsing a part-time player. That sends a bad message. It makes the league look bad.”

That’s not spitting a fact. It’s spewing an opinion. After listening to SAS criticize Irving on numerous occasions, we wonder if he thinks Irving cannot — but should —measure up to HIS work ethic. No one can question Smith’s ability to keep grinding — non-stop (until he himself was shut down by COVID in recent weeks). Yet we also wonder why, in this case, Smith has just targeted Irving.

What about Tsai and GM Sean Marks? If SAS has such major problems with Irving, why isn’t he also flexing his mouth at Irving’s enablers?

Maybe SAS can bring them into the equation the next time he decides to bloviate on the topic.

Judging by how obsessed he is with Kyrie Irving, there will be a next time … and a next time … and a …

SILENT KNICKS

When it comes to media relations, Julius Randle is only following the blueprint set by Knicks/Gulag boss James (Guitar Jimmy) Dolan.

Valley of the Stupid Gasbags, and other interested parties who have propping up another flawed edition of the Knickerbockers, were ticked because the beleaguered Randle declined to speak with the media after the Bing-Bong’s lost to New Orleans 102-91. Randle has not met with the media eight of the last nine games.

So? It would be surprising if Dolan, who has no use for cameras, microphones and notebooks, has met with the media eight times since his father, Charles, bought MSG, the Knicks and Rangers. And when he has agreed to be interviewed, Guitar Jimmy has been provided a soft place to land. Randle would not be given the same Twinkie Treatment.STEFAN BONDY: Knicks ate the fine and only made toxic Julius Randle situation worse »

Knicks prez Leon Rose has followed Dolan’s media plan. Last September, Rose talked to the media for the first time in 421 days.

Maybe that’s a record Mr. Randle can break.