TNT opens the NBA season on Tuesday with an opening night doubleheader: Boston at Cleveland at 6:30 p.m., followed by L.A. Clippers vs. the L.A. Lakers at the Staple Center.
TNT is going to carry 53 games, primarily Thursday nights. ESPN will have 75 telecasts, primarily Wednesday and Friday nights, ABC will have 15 games, Christmas on Sunday afternoon. NBA TV also will have 96 live games.
TNT announcers Doug Collins, Reggie Miller and Chris Webber discussed the upcoming season in a conference call. Here are a few of the excerpts:
Collins on how the addition of Shaquille O’Neal is going to help LeBron James and the Cavaliers: “(LeBron’s) game has gotten better every year and I love the energy he plays with. He’s in a good spot this year in that he’s in the last year of a contract and Shaq’s motivation to say that he’s won three championships with Kobe Bryant, one with Dwyane Wade and now one with LeBron. I think that Shaq will help on their frontline. They really got hammered inside last year and they didn’t have any answers for Dwight Howard. He’ll also take some of the pressure off of (James) in dealing with the media all the time. These are two very dynamic personalities. I don’t know who is going to be in charge of the pre-game introductions now so I can’t wait to see that.”
Collins on the competition between the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference: “It’s going to be so exciting to see which of the top three teams (Celtics, Cavaliers and Magic) in the Eastern Conference will be able to get the best record and get that number one seed. That will be so important this year because that will prevent you from having to go through two of those teams to get to the NBA Finals. The three-horse race in the East is going to be really exciting to watch.”
Miller on the defending NBA Champion Lakers: “Who is going to step up and challenge the defending champs, the Los Angeles Lakers? The rich get richer; you basically have the same team with the addition of a former defensive player of the year in Ron Artest.”
Miller on the San Antonio Spurs: “San Antonio added the veteran presence of Antonio McDyess and Richard Jefferson, but the key will be the health of Manu Ginobili.”
Webber on the San Antonio Spurs challenging the Lakers in the West: “I’m somebody that I’m the biggest San Antonio fan in the world and I think ever year they are not given the credit they deserve. They usually come through but they do it in a methodical way so it’s not interesting or sexy. I’m really looking for them to challenge and dethrone the Lakers.”
Webber on the Portland Trail Blazers: “Portland is the most exciting team in the NBA and I’m looking for them to take a big step and make their mark in the NBA.”
Miller on the New York Knicks plans for the prized 2010 free agent class: “Everyone has their eye on the prize of the 2010 class from LeBron James to Chris Bosh to Dwyane Wade to Joe Johnson to Amare Stoudemire. If I’m (Knicks general manager Donnie) Walsh and the New York Knicks, we know that your focus is LeBron James. But if you could get two of those guys in New York, I think that would pay bigger dividends than getting one big fish in LeBron James.”
Collins on if the Los Angeles Clippers can make the playoffs: “When you look at the Clippers and you don’t play in paper but the key is Baron Davis. Is this the Baron Davis who played 82 games in Golden State; played so well and was such a leader? They’ve got a ton of talent but will they be able to put it together? When I look at the Western Conference, to me there are (already) six playoff teams and two open spots. Houston is vulnerable without (injured) Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming for a while and New Orleans is a team that has slipped. There are two spots and I think the Suns could slip in (to the playoffs) or Golden State or the Clippers, they have talent.”
Webber on the Sacramento Kings: “I still think Geoff Petrie is one of best GMs in the game. I think it makes it harder for guys to come together when there isn’t a system to rely on. Are you relying on defense or on pick and rolls? Of course, there’s experience from playing that style of ball. I think Tyreke (Evans) is going to be the Rookie of the Year and they are looking to grow. They are probably not going to make the playoffs and definitely won’t win a championship but if they are looking to grow, it’s great to have a teacher and that’s what they need in Sacramento. Someone who will teach them, let them build on something and not just waste a 82-game schedule.”