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The Talking Points All Favor TNT

October 28, 2003|LARRY STEWART

The NBA is calling this "Premiere Week" because so many players and coaches will be with new teams when the season opens tonight.

There have also been changes galore among the network announcing teams.

TNT beefed up its already dominant lineup by adding Doug Collins, regarded by many as the best game commentator in the business, and Steve Kerr, a rookie broadcaster who is already better than most.

Comparing TNT to the NBA's other major television carrier, the Disney entry of ABC-ESPN, is like comparing the league's Eastern and Western conferences. TNT is the dominant Western Conference.

ABC-ESPN has done a lot of shuffling and scrambling in an effort to catch up.

The most significant move was persuading Al Michaels to add NBA play-by-play to his ABC workload. The plan was to pair him with Collins, who became available after he was fired as coach of the Washington Wizards. But Collins signed with TNT.

Michaels still doesn't have a partner. ABC's NBA coverage won't begin until Christmas Day, though, so there is time. But who's left? Isiah Thomas? He'd be an NBC retread, and one who was generally panned by critics.

Bill Walton, Tom Tolbert and Sean Elliott are presumably out of the running, having been given ESPN assignments.

George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, has said he wants the ABC and ESPN telecasts to be distinctive, and that means separate announcing teams. No more crossing over, as was the case last season.

Brad Nessler, lead play-by-play announcer for both ABC and ESPN last season, will be lead play-by-play announcer for only ESPN this season. He'll be joined by Elliott, who was promoted after a solid performance last season, and Dan Majerle, who formerly worked for TNT.

Walton and Tolbert, on the lead team last season, have been demoted. Walton will work with new play-by-play man Mike Breen, a New York Knick announcer who worked for NBC as well. Tolbert will be part of a team that includes Mike Tirico on play-by-play and new commentator George Karl.

ESPN's courtside reporters will be newcomer Doris Burke, a former Providence player who has worked in local television in the Northeast; Jim Gray, Stuart Scott and Michele Tafoya.

Kevin Frazier will be ESPN's main studio host. Greg Anthony, one of the few bright spots for ESPN last season, returns in an expanded role and will be joined by newcomers Bill Laimbeer, who has done game analysis for the Detroit Pistons, and Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Stephen A. Smith.

Frazier will also return as host of ESPN2's weekly "NBA FastBreak Tuesday," which debuts next week. Frazier will be joined by Tim Legler, who was on the show last year, and Anthony.

Short Waves

TNT begins its game coverage with a doubleheader today. The first game at 5 p.m. is Phoenix at San Antonio and the coverage will include the Spurs' championship ring ceremony.

Kerr, who retired as a Spur, will take part in the ring ceremony, then join Marv Albert and Mike Fratello at the broadcast table.

The second game is Dallas and the Lakers from Staples Center. TNT has this game exclusively, which means no Paul Sunderland and Stu Lantz on Fox Sports Net. The TNT announcers will be Kevin Harlan and Collins.

The game marks the regular-season debut of the Lakers' new radio announcing team of Joel Meyers and Mychal Thompson.... Game time is listed at 7:30, but if the ring ceremony in San Antonio runs long, as expected, it could push back the start of the Laker game.

ESPN begins its regular-season coverage with a doubleheader Wednesday -- Orlando at New York followed by Cleveland and LeBron James at Sacramento.

The Clippers' opener Wednesday night-Thursday morning at 2:30 in Japan against Seattle will be televised by NBA TV. It is the first of 95 regular-season games to be televised by NBA TV, which is available in about 40 million digital cable and satellite television homes.

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