The NBA’s Woj vs Shams rivalry is getting really fishy

The Los Angeles Lakers coaching carousel is always going to turn some eyeballs. Still, this year’s iteration of the franchise’s search has had an odd wrinkle that has spotlighted the league’s top newsbreakers and one of sports’ iconic brands.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week that UConn Men’s Basketball coach Dan Hurley was the top candidate for the Lakers’ head coaching job, and even said that Hurley was the top choice “from the beginning.”

This was contradictory to the weeks of reporting by The Athletic’s Shams Charania who said that ESPN commentator JJ Redick was the front runner for the position.

Hurley ultimately decided to stay at UConn, as Wojnarowski announced on Monday that the coach of the last two NCAA Championship teams would turn down a six-year, $70 million deal from the Lakers.

But the confusing coverage of the Lakers highlights the ongoing power struggle between two of the most influential newsbreakers in the NBA.

Related: JJ Redick’s cryptic statement about Shams just got crazier after Woj’s latest Lakers report

Charania and Wojnarowski’s differing reports

On Thursday, another chapter in this saga unfolded after Wojnarowski broke that the Lakers would interview Redick — a story that, while more aligned to Charania’s reporting, still creates a different timeline and priority of events.

Wojnarowski’s report said that Redick will “formally interview” with the Lakers this weekend, and that a “strong performance” would catapult him to the front of the search.

Charania reported before the NBA Finals started last week that the Lakers were already “zeroing in” on Redick as their candidate. He reported that Redick, who hosts a podcast alongside Lakers star LeBron James, was the first candidate to receive a face-to-face meeting with the Lakers.

The differing reports have caused a ton of speculation on everything from Redick’s future at ESPN and the next steps for the network’s NBA Finals booth, to theories that Hurley used Wojnarowski for leverage for his next deal.

Following the Charania report, Redick, who is calling his first NBA Finals, said on the “Gojo and Golic” show that he will address Shams after the Finals is over. He clarified that he didn’t mean the reporting of Shams, but instead Shams himself.

“My focus is on the NBA Finals. In terms of Shams, that will be addressed once the season is over. I’ll just say that.” @jj_redick addresses the elephant in the room — the rumors of the Lakers’ interest in him as their new Head Coach

— GoJo and Golic (@GoJoandGolic) June 5, 2024

Wojnarowski’s news about Hurley as the Lakers’ top candidate dropped a day after Redick’s statements.

However, Charania stood firm on his reporting, writing in his story on The Athletic that the Lakers’ search has “centered around Redick” and that Hurley and the Lakers were simply “in contact.”

Hurley would eventually reject the Lakers deal, and in a crazy wrinkle, Charania guested on “The Pat McAfee Show,” which airs on ESPN, to take a jab at Wojnarowski.

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On Tuesday, June 11, Charania made a comment when mentioning that the Lakers lost out on Hurley.

“[The Lakers] had this week, after losing out on Dan Hurley — I guess — they’ve had this time to go get James Borrego,” Charania said.

McAfee ultimately called out Charania for the “I guess” comment, which was clearly a shot at the reporting done by Wojnarowski.

Shams on The Pat McAfee Show: “If the Lakers want to go hire James Borrego, they’ve had a month to hire James Borrego. They’ve had this week, after losing out on Dan Hurley — I guess — they’ve had this time to go get James Borrego.”

McAfee: “I guess?! What was that?!”

— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) June 11, 2024

Then, on Thursday, following Wojnarowski’s report that Redick could now be the top candidate following his first interview, Charania was on McAfee’s show again to give his version of the story.

“This is the second time that JJ Redick is meeting with Rob Pelinka [Lakers General Manager] and the Lakers,” Charania said. “I actually said on your program on May 24th that JJ Redick is the favorite … and that has not change. Nothing change from that point. I reported on it as well on The Athletic.”

Charania was giving a sly grin to McAfee throughout his interview, which Awful Announcing called a “victory lap” for The Athletic reporter.

McAfee, the $17 million man of ESPN, even ended up making a massive statement to back Charania, who he said has been his go-to for NBA resources for the past five years.

Related: Ex-ESPN anchor is headed back to court

“Shams was our NBA guy, Shams is our NBA guy,” McAfee said. “Completely OK with other NBA guys being our guy, but Shams has been our guy for literally half a decade.”

Shams Charania takes a victory lap on ESPN after new reports from Woj listing JJ Redick as a top Lakers HC candidate.

Then Pat McAfee comes in:

“Shams is our NBA guy. Completely OK with other NBA guys being our guy, but Shams has been our guy for literally half a decade.”

— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) June 13, 2024

While Charania seems to be navigating the smoke and mirrors surrounding the Hurley deal, the UConn coach himself spoke on “The Dan Le Batard Show” to deny the rumors that he was using the Lakers as leverage on a new deal.

“One of the worst takes I’ve heard is like this was a leverage play by me to improve my situation at UConn,” Hurley said. “I don’t need leverage here. We’ve won back to back national championships at this place … I’ve had a contract in place here for a couple for weeks and the financial part in terms of salary has been done for a while.”

“One of the worst takes I’ve heard is that this was a leverage play…I don’t need leverage here. We’ve won back to back national championships.”

– Dan Hurley shuts down the rumors that this was all some sort of leverage play to get a better contract with UConn.


— Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz (@LeBatardShow) June 13, 2024

Hurley also told Le Batard that he really considered going to the Lakers and that he was truly thinking about it on Sunday night before announcing the decision. He also said that there is a contract that would get him to leave the safety net of UConn, but he hasn’t seen that yet.

“To leave a place … there probably is a number. I don’t know what that is,” Hurley said.

Dan Hurley confirms if the Lakers would have offered him a bigger contract he would be the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers right now.

via @LeBatardShow h/t @Klutch_23

How do you feel about this?

— 🦉 Lakers Vino (@VinoUncorked) June 13, 2024

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