? MICHAELS GETS HOOPY
In a 28-year network career, in which he hag called the World Series, the U.S. hockey miracle of 1980 and, of course, the NFL (he's done Monday Night Football for 18 years), Al Michaels had never called an NBA game until Christmas Day, when he debuted as ABC's lead announcer next to analyst Doc Rivers. "There was trepidation about not having followed the league the way a broadcaster who had been involved in the league would have," says Michaels. "I understand people will say, 'What is he doing there?' if I don't live up to a certain level." Michaels, who said he "filled up his TiVo" with NBA games to prepare and sought advice from NBA voice Marv Albert about getting used to basketball's rhythm, acquitted himself well. He and Rivers—who established himself as an insightful observer in a 1996-99 stint with Turner Sports—had a chemistry that ABC's team of Brad Nessler, Bill Walton and Tom Tolbert lacked last year. The pair will work five more regular-season games and some playoff games before the NBA Finals.
?DEPORTES, TODO EL DIA
ESPN Deportes, the first 24-hour Spanish-language sports network in the U.S., was set to launch this week. The network will rely on ESPN's programming deals with U.S. sports leagues to show more than 200 live events this year, including the four major sports and UEFA Champions League soccer. Deportes will initially be seen in just a few TV markets, including L.A. and San Antonio, but general manager Lino Garcia expects the network to be in the top 20 U.S. markets by the end of 2004. The nightly 30-minute SportsCenter Will resemble the English-language version but will focus on Latino athletes. (The anchors will work out of Mexico City.) Starting this month Deportes will also air games from the Liga del Pacifico, Mexico's winter league baseball.