By Dan Shanoff
Special to Page 3
New season, new twist for the TV-wannabes known as the contestants for ESPN's "Dream Job." This time, it's five former NBA players of varying degrees of obscurity, competing for a spot as an on-air NBA analyst.
As usual, the contestants are judged by Woody Paige, Kit Hoover, Stephen A. Smith (SAS) and My Man, Al Jaffe. I'm the unofficial "couch judge" for Page 3, still waiting for the day when I am invited on as a special-guest judge.
Usually, the worst contestant gets the boot, but this week was a mulligan. But that doesn't mean I can't offer up an initial ranking of the five contestants, based on their performances Sunday night, when each was asked to break down a game's highlights:
1. Gerald Wilkins
Intro segment: What a name-dropper! Apparently, he played some guys named "Dr. J," "Bird," "Magic" and
a sibling named "Dominique" in his first week as a pro. Tiny violins, Gerald. Tiny violins.
The Bad: Wait: I thought this was for an analyst job; all I'm getting from him is play-by-play.
The Ugly: Didn't. Know. That. The Tele-Prompter. Was. Supposed. To-Be. Read. So. Slowly. And. Haltingly.
The Judges: My Man Al commended him on pinpointing the Mavs-Kings' problem was defense, but
smacked him for having a too-long intro and too-long closing; Woody liked his smile and his fashion style,
but wanted solutions, not just problems; Kit spotted that it was all play-by-play; and SAS made it loud and
clear: He wants "Names! You know who dropped the ball; you didn't tell me that."
My Judgment: And this was the best of the group? Yikes.
2. Matt Bullard
Intro segment: He wants to remind everyone that he has an NBA Finals ring; kept waiting for him to say that it gave him more credibility than Barkley (instead he said it gave him more cred than Stephen A. Bad move, dude.)
The Bad: Where's the energy?
The Ugly: Zzzzz.
The Judges: SAS got off a good one: "This is a basketball game, not a chemistry class."; Al echoed: "Get a little more excited."; Woody offered a two-tiered critique about what he wants from an analyst: Anecdotal material and tell him something he didn't know (Bullard whiffed on both); Kit thought he seemed natural, but wants him to have "a little more fun up there."
My Judgment: After his tryout, he was spotted on camera talking about how he couldn't be let down, because he didn't have any expectations heading into the competition. Oh, but viewers can be.
3. J.R. Reid
Intro segment: Really, is going to UNC that
much of a bonus? It's not like he went to, ahem,
Northwestern's journalism school. Or, say,
The Judges: Woody liked some of it, but, like
SAS, wanted more names, along with "more theory"; Kit
praised his voice, but wanted him to "give us
something new"; SAS hammered it home: "Names! Names!
Names! Give me names! You guys are protecting
somebody! Names!"; Al followed up with a quip: "I am
Al Jaffe." (Al, you rule!) He noted that Reid was a
"little too much play-by-playish for me."
My Judgment: And like the European hoops game
he favors, his effort was also kind of soft.
4. Darryl Dawkins
Intro segment: I have very high hopes that he
can be a poor man's Barkley.
The Judges: Kit wants him to be "a little more
natural"; SAS called him out for not synching his
analysis to the video that was on the screen; Al had
The Line of the Night: "I had hoped for Chocolate
Thunder, but I got a few sprinkles ... a light rain."
Genius!; Woody wanted to see a translation of the
excitement Dawkins provided as a player, but didn't
get it. ("Think about your own experiences and think
about the way you articulate with other people the way
you play the game.")
My Judgment: Of the five analysts, he's the one
who can get away with relaxing on the analysis and
just adapt his unique voice. Didn't do it this time,
but he should work that angle.
5. Dee Brown
Intro segment: He's very intense. He's a
perfectionist. He went first. (And he finished
The Judges: Woody liked his observations, but
said it "sounded like you were reading rather than
talking"; Kit wanted to see more of his personality;
SAS: "I'm disappointed in you," and compared the
experience to competing in a slam-dunk contest. In
short, he needs more energy; Al agreed with SAS: "Too
read-y," "no personality" and called the presentation
My Judgment: He's going to have to RADICALLY
change his style to get past next week's cut.
Before it was over, the judges gave a few final
Woody: "Give us something that we don't know.
Something that we haven't heard before. That's what I
want you to come with next week."
Kit: "You all have great personalities; let us
SAS: "Names! I want names. Stop protecting
people. Other than that, show me your
Al: "I think you all need to do a lot of work.
Dee and Darryl, you're both in jeopardy of being the
first cuts. Dee, don't read; Darryl, more energy. All
of you: This show is like your rookie year, and no one
is going to be cut. Next week, one of you will be cut
before this show ends."
Dan: "What Al said. See you next week, fellas."
Dan Shanoff is a columnist for Page 2. Every
weekday morning, he writes the Daily Quickie for Page
2 and hosts the Morning Quickie on SportsNation (9-10
a.m. ET). This is his third season reviewing Dream