Report: Former Cavs forward likely candidate to take over Jeff Van Gundy’s spot on ESPN

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Richard Jefferson is reportedly among the candidates to replace Jeff Van Gundy on the ESPN/ABC No. 1 NBA team after the former coach was let go by the network.

Van Gundy was part of a longtime trio with play-by-play man Mike Breen and analyst Mark Jackson.

“While Breen is a Hall of Famer and Jackson has his merits, Van Gundy was the one that made the lead booth go,” the New York Post reported.

“ESPN and Van Gundy declined comment.

“ESPN is expected to replace Van Gundy on its No. 1 team.

“Internally, J.J. Redick, Doris Burke and Richard Jefferson are the most likely candidates.”

Jefferson, a former NBA champion with the Cleveland Cavaliers, would have big shoes to fill, with Van Gundy having just called his 17th NBA Finals, most of any analyst in history. The former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach had been with ESPN since 2007.

Jefferson joined ESPN in 2019 following his final season in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets. He is primarily used as part of its various studio shows but also has contributed as a game analyst.

The 43-year-old is known for giving blunt opinions and engaging in back-and-forth exchanges with colleagues and others. He recently drew attention when he teased former teammate Tristan Thompson during a segment regarding the NBA Finals and also for Twitter beef with Paul Pierce about old playoff matchups between Jefferson’s New Jersey Nets and Pierce’s Boston Celtics.

Ironically, Jefferson and Reddick also have had many interactions on various ESPN shows and now may be competing for this high-profile role. Jefferson playfully jabbed Reddick when the latter was reported to have interviewed for the Toronto Raptors coaching job in May.

Former NBA player Jalen Rose, an analyst on “NBA Countdown” since 2012, reportedly also is being laid off by the network, another big name in the purge that includes longtime NFL analyst and host Suzy Kolber.

Jefferson played two seasons for the Cavaliers and was considered an inspirational force during their run to the 2016 NBA championship. Cleveland was one of his eight NBA teams in a 17-season career, so he would bring experience from many different situations to any new television role.

Van Gundy’s caustic style wasn’t for everyone, so perhaps a fresh voice could be pleasing to some viewers. But adding another player like Jefferson or Reddick to work alongside Jackson might be overkill. The Athletic reported that former Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers may be a candidate, and he could fit Van Gundy’s role a little more closely.

The NBA offseason was promising to make headlines throughout the summer, and it has now done so with some interesting off-the-court news as well.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. One of his favorite sports memories is the Cavaliers-Nets playoff series from 1993.