TNB on TNT
By Paul Benedict
Every Monday night during the fall, millions of people across the United States tune their televisions to ABC for Monday Night Football. It’s essentially become a traditon over all these years, and even though it’s not quite as popular as it once was, Monday Night Football on ABC has established itself as both the pioneer and the pinnacle for prime-time sports viewing. But with just one game left in the NFL season (the Pro Bowl does not count. I repeat, the Pro Bowl does NOT count), where are us avid sports fans supposed to get our weekly prime- time fix? Ok, let me be totally blunt because I think you know where I’m going with this. Whether it be football season or not, every Thursday since the beginning of November, I have plopped myself down in front of a television set to watch the NBA on TNT. It’s our night (our as in us real NBA fans). 2 games–usually great games, terrific coverage, and an outrageously hilarious studio show. That’s what I want and that’s what I get every Thursday. So why can’t TNT Thursday night be the same as ABC Monday night? They have MNF, why can’t we have TNB? TNB on TNT certainly sounds better than MNF on ABC. Plus you get two games instead of just one, so not only is there more to watch, but the odds that you’re getting an exciting game to watch are doubled! And you get at least an hour of studio coverage with Ernie, Kenny, and Charles (and sometimes Magic) that puts any other studio show to shame. Now I realize sometimes that hour of studio coverage doesn’t come until 1 am with Inside the NBA, but I can promise those who don’t watch on a regular basis that they’re missing easily the best Sports Studio Show that exists right now–hell, I’m willing to go further, they’re missing the Best Damn Sports Show Period! (That’s because that’s on Fox at the same time and they’re watching TNT instead–wow, sometimes I can be such a healthy combination of clever and lame that even I’m left rolling my eyes). So beginning with tonight’s slate, I’m going to preview TNB on TNT each Thursday now– and I really will keep with this. (I had the 5 on 5 going every Monday for awhile before it just became too much for a working man to handle on a weekly basis). This week’s format is a work in progress, so if you have any suggestions or feedback, you know where to find me.
7:00- NBA Tip-Off with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Magic Johnson
–Magic is in the house tomorrow–he’s almost always in with the crew when they have an extended agenda. NBA Tip-Off isn’t regularly scheduled, but tomorrow’s is a special edition because they’re formally announcing the starters for the All-Star game (even though we’ve all known who they are for about 2 months now). I strongly encourage anyone who isn’t a TNT regular to tune in at 7 pm sharp tomorrow for the entire pre-game–the crew always kicks it into extra gear when Magic hangs, and Magic himself has an unequivocal perspective on the NBA. Aside from all the rings and MVPs he won throughout his career, this is a guy who brought an electric passion for winning to the court every time he stepped foot on the hardwood. If there’s one human being out there that understands what it takes to truly lead a team to victory in the game of basketball–then Magic Johnson is that soul. And just hearing him talk about the game–it’s like being given a guitar lesson by Jimi Hendrix or having Ron Jeremy explain to you how he managed to be so absurdly ugly, yet still sleep with thousands of women and make millions of dollars. Nobody else knows better.
8:00 – Game 1: Cleveland at Miami, with Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Craig Sager
–Poor ESPN. Last friday the first game of their double-header featured the LeBron-less Cavs going up against the…(gulp)…New York Ninnies. And then on Sunday, ESPN decided to roll the dice with a 6:00 pm special edition broadcast of the LeBron-less Cavs taking on the… (throws up in mouth)…Milwaukee Sucks. Ouch. No–double ouch. But, let’s just give our thanks and say grace because the King is back and ready to go to war against Shaq and the Heat. Sorry, Anthony–Shaq, the Flash, and the Heat. The Cavs have lost the lead in the Central and will likely have to accept that because it does not appear that the Pistons are turning back. Meanwhile people are crying foul (aka ESPN is creating its own headlines) because the Heat have won just 6 of 10 and Shaq appears to be in cruise control. How is this news? At least wait until Shaq takes his annual 2-week vacation on the injured list before complaining that he hasn’t put it into full throttle just yet. Anyways, it’s really a great game because it features 3 of the 10 most exciting players in the league (off the top of my head, I’d rank them #1, #6, and #9–you guess who’s who) and does indeed have some importance in the standings.
Observe Closely to see how LeBron handles himself defensively. With Ira Newble sidelined, LeBron is probably going to be forced into some of the tougher defensive matchups he’s had this season–with a sore ankle. I would guess that Silas sticks Snow on Flash for the better part of the game, with McInnis on DJones, and LeBron likely assigned to Eddie Jones which shouldn’t be a problem for him. But with Grant Hill, ‘Melo, and possibly Kobe manning up with Bron in the next slate of games, it’s important the King put a little more emphasis on his defensive responsibilties beginning with tonight.
Pay No Attention to any sideline reporting Craig Sager has about who’s going to retire and when it’s going to happen. No, I’m kidding. I really do think Sager was on to something last week about his report that he spoke with Pacers President Donnie Walsh who informed him that Reggie Miller was ready to hang up his ears, err, jersey at the end of the season. I just don’t think ole Regg wanted the news broken the way it was, especially considering that he’d surely have given his sis Cheryl the leg-up on breaking any news like that. About that news– I’ve never been a huge Reggie Miller fan, but I do think he has another productive season in him and that he’d be well-served to give this Pacers club, which I do think will remain intact for next season, another shot at getting him that ring.
Watch and You Will See that the Miami Heat have suddenly become the Los Angeles Lakers of the Eastern Conference. Take note of all the empty seats at the beginning of the game and check back later when every seat is filled–many with celebrities, just like at Staples with the Lakers. Going to a Heat game has become chic in Miami and people don’t just go for the game anymore, they go to be seen. Can you guess why? Hint: S. O’Neal. Wait, that’s too obvious. Shaquille O.
Prediction- Heat 100, Cavaliers 94
10:30 – Game 2: San Antonio at Lakers, with Kevin Harlan, Doug Collins, and Cheryl Miller
–Once again TNT can thank the Ratings Gods for having Rudy T res—- whooooaaaa! Let’s not go there. Rudy T was a dedicated coach that was loved by all of his players, a terrific individual that was loved by everyone around him, and it’s just plain sad to see such a class guy walk away from the game like this. I hate to admit it, and anyone who knows me understands how much of a milestonian thing this is for me to say, but I’ve actually enjoyed watching the Lakers this season, and though I won’t go so far as to say that I’ve been rooting for them, but I will oblige and confess that I haven’t been rooting against them for the first time in a long while. They’re a likeable, energetic young team that comes to play each and every night out no matter who the opponent. But of course, against one team in particular, the Lakers will need a lot more than a concerted effort and that team happens to be coming into Staples tomorrow. Hey Frank Hamblin, you got a nice treat when you drew team turmoil at home on Tuesday, but have fun with the Spurs who still are fuming about last spring’s playoff loss (see 2 blowout victories this season).
Observe Closely and witness how many possessions the Lakers have in which Lamar Odom does not touch the ball. That was one setback to Rudy T’s coaching job this season–Lamar Odom was just not doing enough for the team and Rudy did not appear to be addressing this issue fervently enough. It’s plain and simple, when the offense runs through the multi- talented Odom and he takes 20 shots a game, the Lakers are a much, much better team. But when Chucky Atkins is heaving up 21 shots, Jumaine Jones is taking 9 3-pointers, and Chris Mihm is throwing up bricks from inside the paint, the Lakers are a pretty easy team to defend.
Pay No Attention To any sideline shots of Brent Barry’s wife, Tim Duncan’s wife, Kobe Bryant’s wife, or Tony Parker’s “petit amie”, Eva Longoria. Not unless the game is a complete mauling because, believe it or not, this could end up being a pretty exciting game.
Watch and You Will See that unlike Spurs teams of the past, the ones where the offense consisted of feeding it to Tim Duncan in the post and watching as he either took a turnaround jumper or passed it to someone for a 3, that this year’s San Antonio Spurs team is the most exciting team in basketball. Everyone is all about the Suns and believe me, I’m a big fan myself. But the Spurs like to get out there and run this year as well with Popovich opening up the offense more for Ginobili and Parker, and let’s face it–when it comes down to playing a halfcourt game in the closing moments, the Suns are a laughing-stock. The Spurs not only execute offensively better than any team I’ve seen in awhile, but defensively they bring the same intensity and hustle that made the Pistons so enjoyable to watch last season.
Prediction–Spurs 102, Lakers 90
1:00 – Inside the NBA with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Magic Johnson
I understand it’s late and we all don’t work wacky hours like yours truly, but if you do go to bed prior to Inside the NBA, just know that you’re missing the some of the best television there is. And if you can’t stay up for the whole hour, at least tune in to hear the Chuckster bellow out, “Giiiinnnnoooooobbbbiiiiillllliiii!!!!!”.
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