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DIANE PUCIN ON SPORTS MEDIA

And suddenly, talk turns to basketball

Ernie Johnson and the rest of the TNT team open coverage of the NBA season Tuesday with a Boston-Cleveland, Lakers-Clippers doubleheader.

October 23, 2009|DIANE PUCIN

Is baseball season over?

If you loved seeing Ernie Johnson host the TBS postseason baseball studio shows, and why wouldn't you because he was great, don't worry.

He will be back with the basketball gang Tuesday when TNT opens its coverage of the NBA season with a doubleheader featuring the Boston Celtics at the Cleveland Cavaliers at 4:30 p.m. and then the Lakers and Clippers at 7:30.

In anticipation of opening night, here's some optimistic talk about our local teams, courtesy of the TNT crew.

Analyst Reggie Miller pretty much dismissed most of the Western Conference when he said, "Who is going to step up and challenge the defending champs, the Los Angeles Lakers? The rich get richer; you basically have the same team with the addition of the former defensive player of the year in Ron Artest."

Take that, Trevor Ariza!

Fellow analyst Doug Collins said it wasn't far-fetched to consider the Clippers a playoff contender either.

"The key is Baron Davis," Collins said. "Is this the Baron Davis who played 82 games in Golden State, played so well and was such a leader? They've got a ton of talent, but will they be able to put it together?

"When I look at the Western Conference, to me there are already six playoff teams and two open spots. Houston is vulnerable with [the injured] Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming . . . and New Orleans is a team that has slipped. There are two spots, and I think the Suns could slip in or Golden State or the Clippers. They have the talent."

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Tracking pitches

During the coverage of the NLCS (on TBS) and ALCS (on Fox) we have seen PitchTrax (TBS) and Fox Trax (Fox), both of which track the movement of pitches, and we have heard on-field dialogue involving umpires and players.

In Wednesday's pregame show on TBS, analyst Dennis Eckersley made clear his dislike of the tracking devices.

"I think it's bad for the umpire, the PitchTrax," Eckersley said. "It's not fair to them. I think that's haywire, that PitchTrax. Me? I'm going by my eyeballs. I want to get on umpires like anyone else, but I have to cut them a break."

Ryan Zander, general manager of baseball products for Sportvision, which provides the PitchTrax and Fox Trax technology, said tracking cameras are installed to get 60 readings on each pitch from the moment it is released until it crosses the plate.

These readings include location, speed and breaking information. That information is passed through a computer software program and Zander said, "We're accurate to less than an inch."

As to Eckersley's criticism, Zander said, "If it's not good enough, that's not for me to decide."

As for the in-game dialogue, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said any player or umpire involved gives permission to have a microphone clipped to his uniform.

What's said isn't aired live. A producer edits for language and content. One of the more interesting exchanges turned out to be between Angels Manager Mike Scioscia and plate umpire Jerry Layne about how Angels catcher Mike Napoli wasn't squatting low enough for Layne to have a good view of pitches. After the discussion, it was noted Napoli was lower in his crouch.

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Good today

Warm up for the real NBA season by checking out the Lakers and Denver at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN and the Clippers and New Orleans at 7:30 p.m. on FS West. And if you want to compare, 2009 runner-up Orlando plays Atlanta at 5 p.m. on ESPN.

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Good on Saturday

Why the remote was invented: At 5 p.m., USC plays Oregon State on Channel 7. And on Channel 11 the Angels play at the Yankees in Game 6 of the ALCS. What? No one at USC or MLB figured this could happen? So you'll have to switch between Mike Patrick and Craig James from the Coliseum and Joe Buck and Tim McCarver at Yankee Stadium.

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Good on Sunday

While it's not live, at 11 a.m. on Channel 4 there is a World Gymnastics Championships highlight show in which you can critique new world all-around champion Bridget Sloan and silver medalist Rebecca Bross, both Americans, who won last week in London.

Or there's the NFL if you must. Best offering of the day is on Channel 4 for "Sunday Night Football," Cardinals at the Giants at 5:15 p.m.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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