If Jayson Williams's new gig as an NBA analyst for NBC becomes too mundane for him, he should head over to HBO and demand his own comedy special. Before his debut on the Nov. 3 coverage of Michael Jordan's return against the Knicks, Williams offered the kind of verbal grenades that should make him a favorite with NBA viewers who flock to Charles Barkley for similar off-the-cuff commentary on Turner Sports. To wit:
? Williams on Michael Jordan: "I know he's going to get into better condition, but there are three ages of a man. There's youth and middle age, and there's 'Uh, you look good.' Against the Knicks he was Uh, you look good."
?On Sixers coach Larry Brown: "As a coach, Brown can go in and out on you. Today you're his favorite player, tomorrow you're Saddam Hussein."
?On David Robinson: "I never saw anybody so scared of Shaquille O'Neal as he was last year. I'd like to pick San Antonio to win it all, but I don't know which David Robinson will show up—the Admiral, the Private or the Boy Scout."
?On Barkley: "I'm not trying to get it on with Charlie. He was a better player than me, and he can talk more s—-than me."
Based on the debut broadcast of the rejiggered NBA on NBC studio show—featuring new faces Williams, former 76ers president Pat Croce and former coach Mike Fratello—it looks as if the network has a significantly better show on its hands. Any casting change would have been a improvement over P.J. Carlesimo and Kevin Johnson, who last season proved to be a better cure for sleep disorders than Ambien. Not surprisingly, the 33-year-old Williams was jacked up on opening night, going for too many one-liners, but he showed why he'll be entertaining throughout the season. After Croce took umbrage at Brown's claims that Croce had meddled in the relationship between Brown and Allen Iverson, Williams was quick to crack, "There goes your Jesse Jackson status as a mediator."
Although he has a two-year deal with NBC and plans to make a career in broadcasting, Williams, who retired after the 1999-2000 season because of a leg injury, concedes that he still dunks about a comeback as a player. "The studio stuff is great, but I miss the game so much," he says. "You don't know how much you miss your water until your well runs dry."