ESPN sources tell us that Johnson's departure was the result of an old-fashioned power war, with one very clear winner: Bill Simmons. "It's Simmons's show now," said one source.
Magic apparently was not at all happy when ESPN told his buddy Michael Wilbon that his role on NBA Countdown would be diminished. He was "booted," according to one source. Another ESPN insider also said that Magic was "privately seething over the Wilbon thing and in general did not like that Simmons held all the power and influence." Magic didn't necessarily need the power, our sources explained; he just didn't feel like kowtowing to Simmons when he's, well, Magic Johnson.
"The bottom line is they turned that show over to Simmons," said our source. "That's why Doug Collins got hired and why Wilbon was out."
Doris Burke in....
urke said Mark Gross, a senior vice president and executive producer of production at ESPN, suggested the idea of working as studio analyst during a meeting at his office in Bristol, Conn., in August. When Burke is on NBA Countdown, she will navigate most of the ins and outs from commercial breaks. Gross described Burke's role as a hybrid between analyst and host.
Burke is expected to be part of a NBA Countdown panel that includes in some combination: Doug Collins (ESPN announced earlier this week that it had reached a multiyear agreement with former Sixers coach to serve as a studio analyst), Magic Johnson, Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons. Former Nets coach Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo also remain NBA Countdown possibilities.