Talkin’ hoops…with BT

Exclusive Interview with Brandon Tierney of ESPN 1050

Dan Miranda February 25, 2011 | 4:10pm
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I got a chance to sit down with ESPN’s Brandon Tierney and talk some hoops before his show today. You can read the transcribed interview in its entirety below or download the link. Just 15 minutes of time, but a chunk full of information and basketball talk. Get to know Brandon and where he came from, how he feels about new Knicks Chauncey Billups, and the signing of Jared Jeffries. All expanded on and more.

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Knicks Vision: How did you get into the business?

Brandon Tierney: I started journalism with Marist and graduated in the mid-90′s and started my career with some internships and worked my way up the ladder, hustled a bit. Worked on a TV news show, Good Day New York, read scripts, and worked the green room, and helped book guests and do things to help structure the show. From there, I got my first job in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1999. Did four hours every day from 6-10 – touched on the Steelers and primarily the Philly and Pennsylvania sports… It was an interesting time.

From there, I went on to Las Vegas, where I did a national weekend show, for five hours every Saturday and Sunday… I was on roughly 200 stations, and one station I was on was Detroit, the Fan. When I left Vegas, I had a fair amount of exposure nationally, even though I was pretty young. A lot of the VD’s were at least familiar with my work, and the Detroit thing came together pretty quick. I just, literally, packed up my SUV and drove across the country and wound up in Motown for little less than two years. That was a different kind of stint because that was the first time it felt like a “profession”. The stakes were raised a bit. It was a top ten market, the tolerance for mistakes was certainly not as great, different expectations, different level of accountability.

It was a good time too for the sports scene because even though the city of Detroit takes a big hit in terms of perception – crime, poverty – lot of good people out there. It’s a great college town because of all the Michigan alums and Michigan State, so you have that heavy Big 10 presence.  Also, when I moved out there, the Pistons started to turn the corner, when they hired Rick Carlisie and the two years I was there they won 50 games in a row and they acquired Chauncey Billups. I was at the Palace all the time and got to feed my NBA passion… it was a pretty vibrant time on the sports scene.

I left Detroit in 2003, started around doing a weekend show, wound up doing some night shows, hooked up with Stephen A. We worked together for a year and half or so, then I moved to the ten o’clock in the morning, solo.  Then I moved from ten o’clock, to one o’clock with the Mac Man. Easy to work with, knowledgeable guy, knows all sports, probably the most fun I’ve had at ESPN 1050. It’s been a good run.

Along the way there has been the TV stuff, with the Wheelhouse and SNY. Very proud of that. I’ve been on that show since day one… have made some good friends there. For five years at 1050, I called St. John’s games. Three years doing the Knicks pre, post, and halftime shows.

KV: Changing to the Knicks, much of a difference maker will Chauncey Billups be down the stretch of the game?

BT: Chauncey is a coach… that still has a lot of game. Funny, I was at the debut the other night… there was a situation where Amar’e was on the stripe. Billups andToney Douglas were huddled up near half court and he’s telling Douglas where to go. Billups has already taken ownership of this team. He’s good, he can still play. He’s right around mid-40′s from downtown. Watching him, I almost forgot this, since I hadn’t watched him in a while – his form, it’s more noticeable when you’re in the arena, is textbook. The way he squares up his shoulders and gets terrific rotation, he really is a solid shooter. A lot of people overlook that. They see him as a leader and a big forth quarter shot maker hence the moniker, shot to shot he’s just an efficient guy. When they double Amar’e, which they will, and when they double Melo, which they will, #4 is going to get a lot of open looks, and he’s going to knock a lot down… Great free throw shooter, 90%, his strong suit is the pick and roll, so is Amar’e’s. He was a very underrated piece of the puzzle in the trade.

KV: Do you think the argument of “who’s the star of this team” matters?

No, I know they’re not thinking about on the court at that moment. There’s always ego in anything high profile things – like the NBA, even sports radio, writing, TV, you want to be the best. You’re competitive to get to that point. You’ve probably struggled and hardened, and you want to succeed. In terms of fighting for that baton, nah. First and foremost, (Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony) are friends. Not adversaries, friends… there’s a strong core… There’s going to be some nights when Amar’e drops 35 and Carmelo gets 21. Conversely, Melo’s going to drop 41 and Amar’e’s going to take a secondary role. It’s basketball, it happens. It happened with the Celtics, but Paul Pierce is a high volume shooter and a high volume scorer and so was Ray Allen when he [went to Boston], so was Garnettwith Minnesota! To be fair, it doesn’t always work. In this situation, I think these two pieces are aware enough, perceptive enough, and driven enough to make it work. They need some defense, but they’ll make it work.

KV: With the addition of Jared Jeffries and possibly Earl Barron, what’s the ceiling for this Knicks team?

BT: Probably not as high as people think. I don’t see them going to the Conference Finals. Really, if they play the Bulls in the first round, which they probably will… Even though I think the Knicks top three (Amar’e-Billups-Melo) are better than Rose-Noah-Boozer, but then it’s depth, defense, interior presence, and who’s better built for the post season. And that’s the Bulls. I was hoping Donnie Walsh would solidify a big body. Yeah, I know Earl Barorn’s big and he is a big body, but that was a very pressure free situation (last season). Very loose and free-flowing. You call a kid up in September and he hits .315 and you’re intrigued, and he makes the team and he’s there in April, and he hits .195. There’s just a different level of competition. I think that might apply to Barron.

I do like Jeffries coming back. He’s versatile, he’s long, he can handle the ball. Not a shooter, not a scorer, but you have enough of that. He’s going to go get the ball – in terms of rebounds and loose balls. Every team needs a couple of guys like that.

Still, I don’t think the upside (of the Knicks) is very high. Still Miami is going through this for the first time, they don’t have playoff experience together. I think that was a bad trade for the Celtics with Kendrick Perkins. Don’t get it. And I’m not really enamored with the Magic at all. I think they’re vastly overrated, and I think they’re going backwards. The Knicks are a work in progress and (the Carmelo Anthony trade) is certainly step one, but there are a few more steps to be made.

KV: How do you feel about Gallinari, Felton, Chandler and Mozgov all being traded away to Denver? What will your memories be of them, and what do you think they’ll do in the future?

BT: It’s funny, everyone has a different moment that provokes a different thought.

  • Starting with Raymond Felton, I have a lot of respect… Hey, it is a business, so Raymond knows, he signs a two year deal, there’s always the possibility you get dealt. It happens. He started with the Bobcats, moved onto the Knicks, and has his third address in five years or so. Raymond Felton is a guy that, along with Amar’e, embraced bringing back the Knicks. He played hard, and he played well.
  • Wilson Chandler‘s got a lot of game, a lot of offensive game. He’s actually a pretty versatile defender in the fact that occasionally he would guard big men, and do okay, but he was expendable in bringing in Carmelo. In essence, Wilson Chandler is Carmelo Anthony-lite. He’ll never average 25, like Carmelo will, but he kind of does, offensively, a lot of the same things: gets to the rim, good mid-range, and a little bit of a three point threat. I don’t think the Knicks were going to retain Wilson Chandler. The pace he was on it looked like he was going to get nine or 10 million depending on the CBA.
  • Mozgov is interesting. I like Mozgov. He’s big, he’s got good hands, he’s got quick feet. He’s fluid, he’s an athlete. At some point, he’s going to become a good shooter. I would say he can become one of the top 12 centers in the game, two three years from now. Could he be in the top 10? Yeah, I think he could.
  • You wrap it up with Gallo. Everybody knows he’s my favorite, love him. But I love him because he has a unique skill set. He’s 6-10, he can handle, he’s got range. His shot has deserted him, he has not shot the ball as well as he should… Anybody who watches Gallo knows he’s a good shooter. His wrist, by the way, has been a little bit of hindrance this year. He gets to the free throw line. That is a talent you can’t teach. He has it. He’s a willing passer, he’s a willing defender. Now, is he a front line superstar? No, he’ll never be that guy. In the right system, and certainly Mike had a good system for him. Can he average 20? Yeah, he’s 22 years of age. He’s got to hit the weights and make sure he stays on top of his back… If George Karl posts him up… it will expand his game and get him to the free throw line more. If you can get that shot, he could be an offensive All-Star. You know where I stand on the kid, he’s good.

KV: Thanks for taking the time, Brandon.

BT: Anytime, hope you enjoyed it.

 

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1 Comment

  1. bdegrande

     /  02/26/2011

    Don’t get the Chandler is Carmelo lite point, which both you and Stephen A have said. Chandler is a much different player, one of the Knicks’ best shot blockers and a guy who can defend three positions. If he were only a scorer and scored 16 a game, THEN he would be Carmelo lite.

    I agree on Mozgov, it might be a few years away, but he has a chance to be a legitimate center.

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