NBA’s gimmick game continues with ESPN-TNT broadcaster swap

NBA’s gimmick game continues with ESPN-TNT broadcaster swap

When in doubt, confuse them.

That’s Adam Silver’s mantra with the NBA’s In-Season Tournament. Whether it be designer courts or point differentials, no gimmick shall be wasted.

Even the league’s national TV partners are getting into the act.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to fathom either the ESPN Faculty or Turner Sports suits celebrating over having to combine personalities from their NBA studio productions for the two Dec. 7 pregame shows prior to each semifinal game in Las Vegas. The combo crews will work at least one segment together.

So, the highly decorated TNT NBA studio team featuring Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith will join ESPN’s forever-fluid NBA studio offering, which, at least for now, includes Malika Andrews, Stephen A. Smith, Michael Wilbon, Bob Myers and Adrian Wojnarowski.

It’s confusing enough that TNT and ESPN will each air one of the two semifinal games and separate pregame shows on the same night. So why not deposit more chaos into the proceedings by blending broadcast teams?

Besides the melding of the pregame show personalities, an ESPN voice — Doc Rivers — will work the TNT semifinal game telecast with Kevin Harlan and Candace Parker. TNT’s Reggie Miller will move to the ESPN side to handle that network’s game telecast with Doris Burke and Mike Breen.

On a night that Commissioner Gimmick hopes will be big (in terms of TV ratings) for the NBA, it would be better for TNT (a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery) and ESPN to go with what got them there. Does ESPN’s pregame show really need a shot of Barkley to get them through the night? Does TNT’s pregame need SAS to up the entertainment level and suck more oxygen out of the proceedings?

And as far as the game telecast goes, the night would’ve provided an unusual early season opportunity for ESPN’s new “No. 1” NBA broadcast team (Remember, the Faculty thought it was a swell idea to dismantle its No. 1 team by unceremoniously firing Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson) to get experience working a marquee event together. Instead, ESPN passes on that opportunity for the “honor” of swapping out Rivers for Miller.


Any network in business with the NBA, who wants to continue its relationship with the league, better tread lightly. With contract renewal on the minds of all incumbent TV partners, and the threat of new deep-pocket suitors swooping in, it makes sense to placate NBA suits, aka Silver, when necessary.

And if a one-night swap of Rivers for Miller, or bringing in Barkley and his pregame crew to yakk on ESPN, is going to make the NBA happy you do it.

You do it even though it’s a cockeyed plan.

It would be better if on Dec. 7 ESPN and TNT’s NBA voices line up at full strength in a battle of the broadcasters. No additions or subtractions. That idea makes too much sense. Besides, it’s not gimmicky enough for the NBA.


Despite Audacy (among its holdings are WFAN and WCBS-AM) being on the brink of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, it’s not getting out of the baseball business. At least not yet.

Audacy, according to MLB broadcast sources, is expected to soon reach a new deal, which had been in doubt, keeping the Mets on WCBS-AM.


Joe Benigno’s rock bottom Jets rants always take the same form, decibel, and passion level. The beat went on during his Saturday FAN show, following Gang Gone’s Friday loss to Miami.

Still, if you followed Joey B’s Jets soliloquies, one name always surfaces during the monologue. A man that apparently gets under the Gasbag’s skin.

That would be Greg Buttle, the former Jets linebacker who co-hosts the Jets radio pre and postgame show with Dan Graca. Why Benigno has it in for Buttle is a mystery for the ages.

Is this something personal with Buttle? Suspicious minds want to know.


Play-by-play voices and analysts are quick to tell you “what a great game we are watching,” but are mostly reluctant to point out when the product on the field is garbage

So, credit Fox’s Patriots-Giants production crew for keeping things entertaining — sort of.

Pulling the wool over no one’s eyes, play-by-play man Kenny Albert and analyst Jonathan Vilma, a usually reliable duo, treated this sludge-fest as if it was business as usual. This was sleep-inducing football. The voices got around it by continuing to build up Giants rookie QB Tommy DeVito.

Fortunately, the smokescreen was cleared by a remote in-game interview with Fox pregame mouths Michael Strahan and Rob Gronkowski (who has stepped up his game this season). Normally, the spot would have been a distraction. On this occasion it was an escape — from lousy football.


Ironically, one of the few people to “benefit” from Aaron Rodgers’ Achilles injury is his pal Pat McAfee. He had the foresight to initially make the quarterback a weekly (paid) guest on his YouTube show (it now also airs on ESPN) three seasons ago. Now, with Rodgers chronicling his rehab every Tuesday at 1:05 p.m., the free-flowing spot is destination viewing. Only McAfee’s ESPN/YouTube gabfest can claim to have a “guest” producing the level of unpredictability Rodgers delivers. … Listening to his recent YES podcast it wasn’t hard deciphering what veteran sports yakker Russ Salzberg thought about Jay Glazer’s Fox Sports report of a serious rift between Giants coach Brian Daboll and his defensive coordinator Don (Wink) Martindale. “It [the report] is not true,” Salzberg said on the “Get a Load of This” podcast. “I think this story is complete garbage.” Guess this means Salzberg didn’t have complete faith in Glazer’s reporting, right? Salzberg also opined on his theory that: “… Other people who cover this team [locally] would rather watch them lose than watch them win. They like misery.” Ouch! During his diatribe, outside of Glazer, Salzberg did not name any reporter’s names. … SXM’s Christopher (Mad Dog) Russo is interested in conspiracy theories and concocted another one Wednesday when the phones on his high budget show went dead. Dog blamed the malfunction on old nemesis Dino (Mastermind) Costa.  Even after all these years Costa, who belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of SXM “Mad Dog Sports Radio” hosts, is still somewhere in Doggie’s head. … As if there isn’t enough basketball to watch, YES has entered into a deal with the British Basketball League to stream two games (Thursday/Friday)  each week on the YES app.

* * *


For continuing its role in cancer research. The network recently held its 17th annual V Week for Cancer Research. The fund-raising effort is in memory of Jim Valvano, the fast-talking, wise-cracking college basketball coach who died at the age of 47 after a yearlong battle with cancer and just two months after his famous “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up…” speech.


The Panthers owner can fire as many coaches as he wants. Nonetheless he still should be concerned about the overall image of his organization. When Tepper failed to allow Charlotte Observer columnist Scott Fowler, who has been critical of the owner, to ask a question at a Tuesday press conference, he demonstrated just how petty he can be. Not a great look.


What Aaron Rodgers said: “Anything is possible.”

What Aaron Rodgers meant to say: “I pity the fools who doubt me.”

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