For Finals coverage, NBC thinks a company is better than a crowd


June 15, 1999|By Milton Kent

At this point a year ago, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Bob Costas, Doug Collins and Isiah Thomas were all working in the NBA championship series, but things can change substantially in a year.

Jordan, of course, has retired, and Malone's season was ended involuntarily by the Portland Trail Blazers. Thomas, who began the 1997-98 season as a game analyst for NBC, was moved onto the network's pre-game show, and, if the rumors are correct, could be moving to Washington.

But that's getting ahead of ourselves. Costas and Collins, who joined NBC in midseason last year after being fired in Detroit, have remained, and team to call this year's title series, their first together as a duo.

And with all proper homage to Thomas, the pair says two is the right number.

"We miss Isiah," said Collins the other day. "[But] the game is so fast that it's very difficult with three guys. I continually learn every day from Bob about television. I've been very fortunate to work with some of the greatest announcers in television, and Bob is one of them."

Costas, while recognizing that NBC has been home to two of the best basketball announcing trios -- including Dick Enberg, Billy Packer and Al McGuire in the 1970s and the current triumvirate of Tom Hammond, Bill Walton and Steve Jones -- says the smaller number is more manageable.

"Now, at NBC, we have things flowing smoothly," Costas said.

Costas and Collins head the network's coverage of the New York Knicks-San Antonio Spurs series, beginning at 9 p.m. tomorrow (Channel 11). Thomas will be flanked by Hannah Storm and Peter Vecsey, with Ahmad Rashad and Jim Gray doing sideline reporting.

Exacting Belle's toll

Since he won't talk to the local media, the best way to know what's on Orioles right fielder Albert Belle's mind is to check his America Online-based Web site.

His latest posting, from this past weekend, speaks, not to the ninth-inning blow-up he had with manager Ray Miller last week against the Florida Marlins, but to a play in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies nine days ago, in which he failed to run out a ball that trickled down the third base line.

Belle contends that he knew the ball was foul, even though it was called fair, and further contends that television replays showed him to be correct.

He also says he is being held to a higher standard.

"I know that by not speaking to the media, when something finally happens it's skewed. And that's fine, but I'm not going to talk just because you [the media] misrepresent information. I'm going to continue to play baseball hard, do some charity work and sign some autographs, as I always have," Belle said.

"No excuses, but the year 2000 is approaching and we still have a double standard across America when will it change?"

Let us all hope that Belle's "double standard across America" refers only to recalcitrant, confrontational athletes and nothing else. Perhaps his next Web site missive will clear up the confusion.

Speed kills

With his foot and ankle in a cast, ESPN hockey analyst Bill Clement hardly seems the best candidate to be talking about the benefits of speed, but he says that's the factor that has given the Dallas Stars a 2-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals, heading into tonight's Game 4 against the Buffalo Sabres.

"They are like a boa constrictor that constricts the life out of you by cutting off angles. You need open ice to generate speed and Dallas controls that with speed," said Clement, who broke his ankle and bones in his feet jogging in Dallas during the Western Conference finals.

Just as the Knicks have been besieged by injuries in the NBA playoffs, Dallas has hit a rough patch of ailments. In this series with the Sabres alone, center Mike Modano (wrist) and forward Brett Hull (groin) have been slowed, but the Stars keep rolling along.

"Because of their defense and their belief in their system, they have a greater ability to withstand injuries than most teams," Clement said.

Clement and Gary Thorne will be back at Marine Midland Arena tonight for Game 4, with the faceoff coming around 8 o'clock, after the pre-game show at 7: 30. The series will shift back to Dallas on Thursday for Game 5, with Fox's Mike Emrick and John Davidson on the call (Channel 45, 8 p.m.)

Serve and volley

Wimbledon is on the horizon, so it's only fitting that this month's HBO "Real Sports" has a tennis theme, with profiles on the Williams sisters and their, shall we say, interesting father, Richard, and on former great-turned-obnoxious-commentator John McEnroe.

The magazine, which airs at 4 this afternoon and at 8: 30 p.m. tomorrow, also has a feature on the smoldering feud between baseball and its umpires, with union chief Richie Phillips opening his trap far too much for his own good. There's also a chilling piece on the growing number of reports of sexual harassment by female athletes against their male coaches.

Pub Date: 6/15/99

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