Stephen A. Smith insisted that he's rooting for JJ Redick with the Lakers. Screen grab: ‘First Take’

The Los Angeles Lakers’ pursuit and ultimate hiring of JJ Redick as their next head coach has put many of ESPN’s talking heads in the uncomfortable position of having to publicly discuss their former colleague.

But despite allegations claiming otherwise, Stephen A. Smith made it clear he’s rooting for Redick in Los Angeles.

“Before I get into the basketball portion of this conversation, I don’t think I’m out of pocket by speaking on behalf of this entire show,” Smith said on Tuesday’s episode of First Take. “To JJ Redick, No. 1, congratulations. And No. 2, I don’t know how it works at other networks, but we root for our teammates here. So make no mistake about it, all of us are rooting for you. All of us want you to succeed, JJ, congratulations. And we hope that you make the Lakers a raving success and you have a very prosperous coaching career. That’s what we do here.”

Smith’s comments come just days after another ESPN colleague, Pat McAfee, spoke out regarding the network’s treatment of Redick in the leadup to him landing the Lakers’ job.

“I don’t appreciate or like how JJ Redick has been talked about by a lot of people who have been coworkers of JJ Redick,” McAfee said during Friday’s episode of The Pat McAfee Show. “And I am not somebody who is tight with JJ Redick.”

“Everything he accomplished in basketball would lead you to believe this guy might be a good head coach,” the former All-Pro punter added. “He was actually being introduced on a lot of these shows on ESPN as a guy who’s, ‘This guy is a basketball genius, he’s been around a lot of winning cultures, yada yada yada, JJ Redick.’ And now that JJ Redick got the job, a lot of people on TV are acting like he’s not the right guy for the job.

“Wouldn’t the people that had that guy on their show want people to believe that their show had the Los Angeles Lakers head coach on the show?”

While he didn’t mention Smith directly, it wasn’t tough to connect the dots. Not only did Redick routinely appear on First Take during his ESPN tenure, but Smith’s reporting and commentary regarding the Lakers’ pursuit of the former NBA shooting guard have drawn plenty of criticism in recent weeks.

This isn’t the first time that ESPN personalities have had to deal with a former colleague becoming a subject on their shows and it surely won’t be the last. But while Smith is always one to speak his mind, there’s no reason not to take him at his word that he’s rooting for Redick in Los Angeles.

[Awful Announcing on X, First Take]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.