2011-12 NBA Broadcasting Guide (cont.)
TNT will air 45 games this season, including 44 in prime time, with 32 part of a Thursday-night doubleheader. The network will feature 10 appearances each by the Celtics and Lakers, and nine by the Heat. The Mavericks and Knicks have eight scheduled appearances. TNT will also air All-Star weekend, including the All-Star Game on Feb. 26 from Orlando. TNT has the Western Conference finals this year.
PREGAME COVERAGE: Ernie Johnson (host), Charles Barkley (analyst), Shaquille O'Neal (analyst), Kenny Smith (analyst). Greg Anthony and Chris Webber will occasionally sit in as guest analysts.
1. Marv Albert (play-by-play), Steve Kerr (analyst), Craig Sager (reporter).
2. Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Reggie Miller (analyst) and David Aldridge (reporter) or Cheryl Miller (reporter).
NOTES: Mike Fratello will also appear as an analyst during the season, with Albert and Kerr. Webber will also do some games as an analyst.
10 MUST-SEE GAMES ON TNT:
Dec. 25: Celtics at Knicks, 12 p.m. ET
Dec. 27: Celtics at Heat, 8 p.m.
Dec. 29: Mavericks at Thunder, 8 p.m.
Jan. 16: Mavericks at Lakers, 10:30 p.m.
Jan. 19: Lakers at Heat, 8 p.m.
Feb. 23: Knicks at Heat, 7 p.m.
Feb. 23: Lakers at Thunder, 9:30 p.m.
March 29: Mavericks at Heat, 8 p.m.
March 29: Thunder at Lakers, 10:30 p.m.
April 24: Heat at Celtics, 8 p.m.
WHAT'S NEW: Let's start with a 7-foot-1 studio analyst. O'Neal agreed to a multiyear deal with Turner after retiring in July. What makes the Turner situation a potentially good fit for O'Neal is Inside the NBA already has a natural flow, and longtime stars in Barkley and Smith. O'Neal will not have to be the dominant figure on set; he just needs to be interesting. But there are no sure things in broadcasting. Shaq is smart and funny but not blessed with a great voice. The key will be whether he devotes his full attention to being a broadcaster.
"We don't go into this show with any 'this is your role, this is your role, etc.,' " said Jeff Behnke, the senior vice president and executive producer for Turner Sports. "Our producer, Tim Kiely, brings the guys in about 15 minutes before air and they don't know what the format of the show is except for Ernie. That's the way we have done it from Day 1. It will be the same approach for Shaq. We will let Shaq be who he is and tap into his knowledge and success and entertainment value. There is no pre-decided role."
In an attempt to fuse social media into the broadcast and take advantage of O'Neal's huge Twitter following, the Inside the NBA crew will be tweeting during games, and the tweets will appear on the lower third of the television screen during games.
"We have assigned a production assistant that we are calling the 'Twitter PA' to monitor everything going on in the social media world," Behnke said.
WHAT'S OLD: The team of Albert and Kerr is back and as good as it gets, featuring humor and smarts. The team of Harlan and Miller provides a different vibe, with Harlan's over-the-top exuberance, for the most part, tolerable. With Johnson, Barkley and Smith, Inside the NBA will always be a fun show no matter what Shaq brings.
WHAT WE'D CHANGE: Webber continues to improve and we'd love to see him drop into the studio and games more often. Let's be blunt: Love Cheryl Miller's presence, but she's not a good interviewer. The producers should work with her to up her game on pointed questions, which we get from Aldridge, Burke, Sager, Salters and the others.
WHY VIEWERS SHOULD OPT FOR TNT's COVERAGE: "We don't compare ourselves to other people so I will answer this way: Our core philosophy is to cover the game on the field, court or track and let the emotions play out live as they do, and not to go in with any preconceived notion of what might or might not happen. We tell stories and cover the emotions live as they happen." -- Behnke
OBLIGATORY PRAISE FOR TYSON CHANDLER: "He is the perfect fit next to Carmelo [Anthony] and Amar'e [Stoudemire]. Both those guys are dynamic scorers and neither one is a very good defender. Chandler is as good as there is in protecting the rim and providing leadership. He was a fantastic pickup. I think the Knicks are positioned to have a really good year. But they have some point guard and depth issues." -- Kerr
SI.com: How do you anticipate the quality of play this season?
Kerr: It does concern me, the lack of preparation in training camp and the lack of rest between games. There is no question that will affect teams and players. It's tough to predict how that manifests itself, but I do worry about the product, just given the unusual circumstances this year.
SI.com: How will LeBron be perceived by TV audiences?
Kerr: I think the hatred will soften because I think at heart LeBron is a good guy and I think people understand that. I think they were taken aback by the television special and the Heat's press conference [introducing James in Miami]. I think LeBron did not know how to respond. He tried to take on the villain role last year. With the lockout, with the Chris Paul debacle, I think Miami is probably thrilled. They are thinking the spotlight is off of us for a bit. Also, they are a year into it now and prepared for it. I think LeBron will have a much smoother go.