Thursday, October 23, 2008
Man, is it me or did NBA's offseason just fly by? Well whether you think so or not, it's starting next Tuesday, and ESPN kicks off their coverage the next day with a doubleheader featuring Phoenix at San Antonio and the L.A. Lakers at the L.A. Clippers. Since there have been a ton of new additions to both the booth and studio, I thought I'd give you a quick preview of what the network has going on for this upcoming season.
NBA coverage on ESPN/ABC is just about as wacky as it gets. There are about forty or so people employed by the network, and they are placed throughout various programs on random nights of the week. The ABC side of things is the most stable, but since they started covering the NBA, the channel has gone through about ten different studio team combinations. This year will be no different as the trio of Stuart Scott, Mike Wilbon and Jon Barry (one of the most random studio teams ever assembled) will be adding Magic Johnson. I honestly didn't think that ESPN/ABC could make that studio show worse, but they've certainly tried their best this offseason.
The booths for both ESPN and ABC will be staying pretty much the same as last season. Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy while be your A-team still, and while the three make an above average team, they still have the tendency to get distracted and fly off on random tangents in certain games. Some of Van Gundy's theories and antics are humorous, they get old when it's under two minutes in a close game, and Mark Jackson's surly attitude becomes draining throughout the season. If they stick to the action on the court they're fine, but that's not always the case. The backup team of Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown also stays the same, but occasionally Dan Shulman will be on a call and work with either Brown or Doris Burke. Additionally you may see Dave Pasch, Mark Jones or new hire Kevin Calabro in some spots. Confused yet? Well we're just getting started.
As far as the ESPN side of things, here's where it gets tricky. The studio show, KIA NBA Shootaround, has just about the arbitrary set of hosts and airtimes that I've ever seen. Stuart Scott is usually the host, but you could also see John Saunders, Mark Jones, or Matt Winer in the role. Add to that the list of analysts which includes: Jamal Mashburn, Jon Barry, Bill Walton, Allan Houston (as soon as he retires again), Jalen Rose, Chris Broussard, Tim Legler, Ric Bucher, Doris Burke, Jackie MacMullan, Heather Cox, Nancy Lieberman, Lisa Salters and Avery Johnson.....and you have approximately twenty people to do a job that can be done by four.
If you ADD TO THAT, two more studio shows in NBA Fastbreak and NBA Coast to Coast, it's almost possible to keep track of things. The network also lost one of their better color guys, Greg Anthony, in the offseason to CBS College Basketball. So that's not helping things either. All in all, ESPN's coverage is just about as tough to follow as this post, so here's my attempt to alleviate that confusion and just give you the "NBA on ESPN/ABC Depth Chart". Just randomly pick any combination of these folks and that's who you could get on any given night....
Play by Players: Mike Breen, Mike Tirico, Mark Jones, Dan Shulman, Kevin Calabro and Dave Pasch
Color Commentators: Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, Hubie Brown, Jon Barry and Doris Burke
Sideline Reporters: Ric Bucher, Doris Burke, Heather Cox, Nancy Lieberman and Lisa Salters
Studio Hosts: Stuart Scott, John Saunders, Matt Winer and Mark Jones
Studio Analysts: Jon Barry, Michael Wilbon, Magic Johnson, Avery Johnson, Bill Walton, Jalen Rose, Tim Legler and Jamal Masburn
Reporters: Chris Broussard, Marc Stein, Ric Bucher, Jackie MacMullen and John Hollinger
ESPN Radio: Jim Durham, Kevin Calabro, Will Perdue and Dr. Jack Ramsey
As I see it, that's over 30 people to cover one Sport on a network! Just amazing!!! Now that we've got that out of the way.....here's your ESPN NBA Announcing Schedule for next week (I'm going to go take a nap because my head hurts)....
Wed., Oct. 29
Kia NBA Shootaround (ESPN, 7pm)- Stuart Scott, Avery Johnson
Phoenix at San Antonio (ESPN, 8pm)- Mike Breen, Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy
L.A. Lakers at L.A. Clippers (ESPN, 10:30pm)- Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown
Fri., Oct. 31
Kia NBA Shootaround (ESPN, 7:30pm)- Stuart Scott, Avery Johnson
Chicago at Boston (ESPN, 8pm)- Mike Breen, Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy
San Antonio at Portland (ESPN, 10:30pm)- Kevin Calabro, Jon Barry