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Skip Bayless gets $32M from Fox Sports after ESPN pursuit

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ESPN made a full-court press to reunite Skip Bayless with Stephen A. Smith, The Post has learned. 

The duo would have done a daily ESPN+ show together, while being splashed over ESPN, including weekly spots on “Monday Night Football’s” halftime show.

After lengthy negotiations, it culminated in Fox Sports retaining Bayless with a four-year, $32 million contract, according to sources. 

As part of the agreement, Bayless, a professional provocateur, continues to do his daily morning sports debate show on FS1’s “Undisputed” with Shannon Sharpe. Bayless and FS1 are in the early planning stage of a potential second daily show for the afternoons. At this point, Bayless is expected to be a solo act for the program.

Smith, who makes close to $8 million per year, was a driving force in ESPN’s recruitment of Bayless. The long negotiations went over several months and did not conclude until late fall.

In August, ESPN offered the 69-year-old Bayless a four-year deal in the $30 million range. There is disagreement among sources of ESPN’s best offer, as sources had it as high as $31 million and as low as $26.5 million. The desire, though, was unquestioned.

The emphasis of the move was not to put the “First Take” band back together, but rather to bolster the network’s burgeoning new subscription platform, ESPN+. 

The duo would have appeared on ESPN on a variety of programs in an effort to drive viewers to watch and subscribe to ESPN+. 

Smith and Bayless have had a kinship, dating back two decades. The two have remained close since Bayless left ESPN five years ago, with Smith making it a point to meet up with Bayless and his wife, Ernestine, whenever he was in Los Angeles.

“Stephen A Smith is even more of a brother to me than my real brother,” Bayless told The Post. “I love the man, as you know, on and off the air. Since I left ‘First Take’ for ‘Undisputed’ back in June of 2016, Stephen A. and I have remained in close touch.”

Bayless expressed an appreciation for both the leadership at Fox Sports and ESPN. He also lauded his relationship with Sharpe, saying the two get along great, even though it is not the family-like bond that he and Smith have forged. Bayless declined to go too deep into the finer points of the deal.

Fox Sports and ESPN declined comment.

When Smith left ESPN for Fox Sports five years ago, there was a boilerplate matching clause included in his four year, $24 million deal. In these negotiations, Fox Sports used that, while adding a $1 million sweetener, to top the ESPN offer. 

The story did not end there.

Even when Fox Sports had an agreement with Bayless to stay, ESPN was still determined to add a Smith and Bayless show to ESPN+. This is the area that Disney, ESPN’s parent company, is focused on and looks at as its future.

ESPN executives broached the idea of having Bayless stay on FS1 in the mornings, debating on “Undisputed” with Sharpe, while Smith continued on ESPN’s “First Take” in the mornings with Max Kellerman. 

Then, in a rare cross-pollination between ESPN and Fox Sports broadcasters, Smith and Bayless would still team up for their ESPN+ program. 

Ultimately, there were too many hurdles to make such a cross corporation setup feasible. 

Smith has started a solo ESPN+ program called “Stephen A’s World,” which is said to be doing well.

ESPN’s aggressive push for Bayless happened amid planning for layoffs, which complicated matters. In November, ESPN eliminated 500 positions, letting go of 300 people in the process.

There was optimism at some points that the deal would happen, as the setup for Smith was being planned. Smith, 53, would have had a bi-coastal arrangement, where he would be in New York for “First Take” some weeks and in Los Angeles on others to be in person with Bayless.

Ultimately, Smith and Bayless did not reunite. But their friendship remains strong and Bayless did say he has no plans for this to be his final contract.

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Bulls’ Zach LaVine called cops on ‘obsessed’ fan at his home

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Zach LaVine had an unwanted visitor.

The Chicago Bulls star had to call the police after an “allegedly obsessed” woman showed up to his Chicago home and refused to leave on Thursday night, according to TMZ. 

The woman reportedly traveled from out of state, demanding to speak with the first-time All-Star, who was home at the time.

Police took her a local hospital for mental evaluation, and she has not been formally arrested or charged with a crime.

LaVine, 25, wrapped up first-half action with the Bulls on Wednesday and was drafted to Kevin Durant’s All-Star side for Sunday’s festivities in Atlanta.

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Blake Griffin a free agent after Pistons buyout

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Blake Griffin will be free to sign with the Nets or another interested NBA team after agreeing to a contract buyout with the Detroit Pistons.

The six-time All-Star forward “has interest from most of the NBA’s top playoff contenders and is expected to make a decision on his next team after conversations with prospective teams,” ESPN reported.

The Nets, Lakers, Heat, Warriors and Clippers – his former team — are among those that have expressed interest, according to the New York Times. ESPN.com added that the Blazers are interested

The 31-year-old Griffin hasn’t played since Feb. 12 while the Pistons attempted to trade him before the March 25 deadline, but they found no takers due to the remainder of his $36.6 million salary for this season and the $39 million he’s owed for 2021-22.

Blake Griffin was released by the Pistons on March 5, 2021
Blake Griffin was released by the Pistons on March 5, 2021
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Griffin is averaging a career-low 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 20 games this season. He was dealt by the Clippers to Detroit in 2018, during the first season of a five-year extension worth $171 million.



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Broncos send a pretty strong warning to Drew Lock

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Drew Lock is no lock to remain the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback in 2021.

General manager George Paton and coach Vic Fangio both said Thursday that the team expects to bring in competition for Lock, possibly with the ninth pick in the NFL Draft.

“Obviously we’re always looking to bring in players at all positions that can raise the level of competition, and the quarterback is no different in that regard,” Fangio said, according to the team’s website.

“Until we get or until Drew proves to be the next great quarterback, like the ones that the Denver franchise has been used to in years past or certain teams around the league … are used to, we’re going to always try and bring in competition. But I have confidence that Drew can continue to improve.”

Lock made 13 starts in 2020 and tied with Carson Wentz for the league lead with 15 interceptions. He finished 32nd in the league among qualifying quarterbacks with a 75.4 passer rating, ahead of only Dwayne Haskins, Wentz and Sam Darnold.

Drew Lock faces the Patriots on October 18, 2020.
Drew Lock faces the Patriots on October 18, 2020.
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“Very talented, was inconsistent at times, has a lot to work on,” Paton said Thursday. “But I’ve spoken with Drew, I see him every day. He’s here early. He’s working. He really wants to be great. And we’re always going to try to bring in competition at every position, and quarterback as well. But I like the track that Drew’s on.”

Lock, the Broncos’ second-round pick in 2019 out of Missouri, had started five games as a rookie, winning four of them. Denver went 4-9 with him as the starter last season.

“I’m confident that Drew’s going to continue to improve,” Fangio said. “Drew’s had a great offseason up to this point. There’s not a lot you can do, but he’s working hard on his own, coming over here and getting workouts, and I know he’s doing a lot at home by himself, watching video by himself. He’s got a good setup over there. And he’s doing anything and everything he can to improve, even in February and now in March.”

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