Stephen A. Smith was on the set of “Center Stage” on the YES Network, Tuesday morning, but not the Stephen A. you expected. Smith, one of the most intriguing figures in all of sports media, is known for his loud rants and constant debates with Max Kellerman (and formerly Skip Bayless), but on Tuesday, he was Michael Kay’s interview subject.
So, Smith took on a humble tone in his interview with Kay. The human side came out, both during and after the show. And by that – I mean his Knicks fanhood came out when I asked him a question about the Nets potentially landing big free agents.
With a tired look on his face, Smith told NetsDaily...
“I’m disgusted. Disgusted. I told Jay-Z and them that they betrayed me. I told them that just the other day. Kyrie was always talking about going wherever, [but] he’s always loved Brooklyn.”
Several sources —on several occasions— have told NetsDaily that Kyrie Irving is likely headed to Brooklyn, one source saying it sounds like a “done deal”. Another source tied to the Nets believes there is already a verbal agreement in place.
And thus, the Knicks fan’s lament...
“I was told he was gonna go wherever KD [Kevin Durant] went -- and KD was the guy. And KD was strongly considering New York. If you’re talking about Kyrie on his own, then the chances of him landing in Brooklyn are exponentially higher. With Kyrie I’m not sure. He’s talking to KD one minute, Kobe the next minute, we don’t know what the hell he’s going to do, but right now it’s an issue [for the Knicks].”
Stephen A. often “speculates” but he is by no means just a talking head. He knows things, speaks to people and understands the business. For him to say he spoke to Jay-Z and Roc Nation folks … it sounds like our sources aren’t the only ones who believe this is a done deal.
And like many Knicks fans, Smith is fed up with free agency. He explains how this has been one of the craziest NBA off-seasons he’s covered, especially considering all the injuries that potentially skewed the makeup of several NBA teams this upcoming season.
“The injuries. It’s been wild. And the fact that you have so many bodies, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard… You’re talking about the two major markets in the United States being a focal point, whether it’s the Knicks or Nets in New York or the Lakers and Clippers in L.A. You got the two largest markets with four separate teams, some of them can end up with something, some can end up with nothing. That’s what made it very intriguing because you aren’t just talking about one guy. It’s the number of bodies and that doesn’t add to the fact that Kevin Durant is out for the year. It was incredibly frustrating for that to happen because I think that got in the way of the Knicks’ chances.”
There’s still (some) belief that the Knicks will be contenders for top free agents, but the Nets seem to be gaining more and more momentum as June 30 approaches, as Smith seems to be saying. It sounds like they’ve landed Robin and now Robin is trying to get Batman to come along with him. Marc Stein’s latest report regarding the Nets trying to make space for Durant’s good friend, DeAndre Jordan, might indicate that they’re operating under the impression that the tandem is coming.
Still, nothing is set in stone until pen hits paper. And that means June 30 at the earliest before the Woj bombs starte to explode. As for Durant, nobody knows yet, but confidence is growing in Brooklyn that the superstar will end up there in what might be the biggest off-season in Nets history ... and the biggest since the Heat got LeBron James and Chris Bosh to complement Dywane Wade.
Like all the folks in this industry, Stephen A. expects all sorts of rumors and machinations this week. It’s their job. But it’s also worth remembering: while these guys are entertainers, they know a lot more than we think. Smith seemed to validate everything we’ve been saying for a couple months now with his feeling of “betrayal” from Jay-Z and emphasis on Kyrie’s desire to play in Brooklyn.
So, like the rest of us, Stephen A. waits.
The episode of Center Stage will air on July 25 at 11pm.