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DIANE PUCIN / ON SPORTS MEDIA

Van Gundy brothers are on watch in NBA Finals

Jeff Van Gundy will be the analyst for ABC as his brother Stan Van Gundy coaches Orlando against the Lakers. Jeff offered to sit it out, but his bosses have faith in him and his work.

June 04, 2009|DIANE PUCIN

Jeff Van Gundy knows that Lakers fans will parse his every spoken noun, verb, adjective, pronoun, descriptive phrase, opinion, suggestion.

If the score is 12-10 in the first quarter tonight night and Van Gundy says the Lakers are leading the Orlando Magic, 12-10, Lakers fans will search for hidden meaning in his tone. Did he emphasize the 12 or the 10, the word "Lakers" or the word "Magic?"

And Lakers fans won't be wrong.

Jeff Van Gundy, one of the analysts for ABC's NBA Finals television coverage, is the younger brother of Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy.

Jeff Van Gundy, along with play-by-play caller Mike Breen and analyst Mark Jackson, had been the ABC/ESPN network crew for the Western Conference finals while TNT handled the Magic in the Eastern Conference finals.

Jeff said he offered himself up as a sacrifice when his brother's team upset the Cavaliers in the Eastern finals.

"Obviously I'm a little leery about doing the games," he said. "I spoke to Mike and Mark about it, said, 'I don't know if I should do the games because I'm not sure I could be critical of Stan.' And Mark said, 'That's no difference because I'm never critical of any coaches.' "

It's not unprecedented that one family member announces while another plays or coaches. Bill Walton did an NCAA tournament game that featured his son and future Laker, Luke Walton, playing for Arizona. ABC's Bob Griese called Michigan football games when his son Brian was quarterback. There were no unseemly incidents or outrage. But, then Internet message boards weren't so prominent either.

Walton and Griese tended to keep a distance. Both called their sons by last name only as in, "Walton just made a terrible pass." That was Bill about Luke once during an Arizona game.

ABC/ESPN's executive vice president for production, Norby Williamson, said he had no qualms about the Van Gundy brothers' production.

"I feel Jeff's level of honesty off camera and the level of honesty he portrays on camera is what makes him a great analyst," Williamson said. "He's being honest and open about it. His credibility in the profession matters and the Lakers don't have any issues with Jeff, at least in the meetings and discussions we've had."

And here is Jeff's assessment of his brother's work so far.

"Obviously, he's a great coach," Jeff said. "You don't make it to where he's made it, won as much as he's won, without being really elite in your field.

"He's done a great, great job."

Maybe in a gentle effort to remind Lakers fans that Magic Johnson is a prominent member of the ABC/ESPN pre- and postgame studio shows, Williamson said, "When we hired Magic, no other individual on our staff was so connected to a single franchise and there were concerns because the Lakers were so prominent on our schedule. But look what Magic has done the last two or three weeks, of his commentary on Lamar Odom. There is no question about his objectivity or ability.

"When Jeff expressed his concerns that he shouldn't do it, OK, it was worth a discussion, but this is what's best."

So sit back and listen, Lakers fans, to Van Gundy and Johnson. They report. You decide.

At the break

Hey, it's not all about the game.

While there will be plenty of pregame, postgame, all-game coverage of the NBA Finals on ABC, ESPN, Fox Sports and NBA TV, there are also commercials.

In a bit of news, 2K Sports is going to begin advertising its new basketball video game, NBA 2K10, today and the cover athlete is Kobe Bryant.

During the ad campaign rollout, four potential covers will be shown and viewers will vote on which image they'd prefer to see when the game is available Oct. 6.

Jason Argent, the vice president of marketing for 2K Sports, said that in this, the 10th anniversary of the game, "Frankly, Kobe was the only pick for the cover." Last year it was Boston's Kevin Garnett.

"Hopefully some of the same Garnett magic will rub off," Argent said.

So Argent isn't a neutral observer of these Finals? "No, not now," he said.

Meanwhile, between commercials, here's what will be on:

NBA Countdown, a pregame show on Channel 7, will be hosted by Stuart Scott with analysts Magic Johnson, Jon Barry and Michael Wilbon, 30 minutes before game tipoff. Games 1, 3, 4 and, if necessary, 6 and 7, begin at 6 p.m. The other two games, to be played on Sundays, will begin at 5 p.m.

All games on Channel 7 with play-by-play by Breen and analysts Jackson and Van Gundy, with Doris Burke as sideline reporter.

On ESPN, Scott, Johnson, Barry and Wilbon will do pre- and postgame segments. Shelley Smith will be the Lakers reporter and Rachel Nichols will be the Magic reporter.

Fox Sports is teaming with Sun Sports for a combined NBA Finals postgame show, "Lakers vs. Magic: The Showdown." After Games 1, 2 and, if necessary, 6 and 7 in Los Angeles, the show will be broadcast from Star Plaza outside Staples Center.

And NBA TV will have its own pregame and postgame shows. From Los Angeles, it will be hosted by Ahmad Rashad with analysts Chris Webber and Gary Payton. From Orlando, it will be hosted by Ernie Johnson with analysts Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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