NEW YORK — When in doubt, confuse them.
That’s Adam Silver’s mantra with the NBA’s In-Season Tournament. Whether it be designer courts or point differentials, no gimmick shall be wasted.
Even the league’s national TV partners are getting into the act.
Nonetheless, it’s hard to fathom either the ESPN Faculty or Turner Sports suits celebrating over having to combine personalities from their NBA studio productions for the two Dec. 7 pregame shows prior to each semifinal game in Las Vegas. The combo crews will work at least one segment together.
So, the highly decorated TNT NBA studio team featuring Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith will join ESPN’s forever-fluid NBA studio offering, which, at least for now, includes Malika Andrews, Stephen A. Smith, Michael Wilbon, Bob Myers and Adrian Wojnarowski.
It’s confusing enough that TNT and ESPN will each air one of the two semifinal games and separate pregame shows on the same night. So why not deposit more chaos into the proceedings by blending broadcast teams?
Besides the melding of the pregame show personalities, an ESPN voice — Doc Rivers — will work the TNT semifinal game telecast with Kevin Harlan and Candace Parker. TNT’s Reggie Miller will move to the ESPN side to handle that network’s game telecast with Doris Burke and Mike Breen.
On a night that Commissioner Gimmick hopes will be big (in terms of TV ratings) for the NBA, it would be better for TNT (a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery) and ESPN to go with what got them there. Does ESPN’s pregame show really need a shot of Barkley to get them through the night? Does TNT’s pregame need SAS to up the entertainment level and suck more oxygen out of the proceedings?
And as far as the game telecast goes, the night would’ve provided an unusual early season opportunity for ESPN’s new “No. 1” NBA broadcast team (Remember, the Faculty thought it was a swell idea to dismantle its No. 1 team by unceremoniously firing Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson) to get experience working a marquee event together. Instead, ESPN passes on that opportunity for the “honor” of swapping out Rivers for Miller.
Any network in business with the NBA, who wants to continue its relationship with the league, better tread lightly. With contract renewal on the minds of all incumbent TV partners, and the threat of new deep-pocket suitors swooping in, it makes sense to placate NBA suits, aka Silver, when necessary.
And if a one-night swap of Rivers for Miller, or bringing in Barkley and his pregame crew to yakk on ESPN, is going to make the NBA happy you do it.
You do it even though it’s a cockeyed plan.
It would be better if on Dec. 7 ESPN and TNT’s NBA voices line up at full strength in a battle of the broadcasters. No additions or subtractions. That idea makes too much sense. Besides, it’s not gimmicky enough for the NBA.