NBC, Turner doing best to bring fans the sounds, sights of NBA

February 11, 2000|By Milton Kent

There may be no perfect way for the NBA and its television partners, NBC and Turner, to replicate the kind of ratings magic that Michael Jordan brought, but you have to give them credit for the attempt.

One of the most obvious ways the three heads are trying is by using sound to their best advantage. About the only person who won't be wearing a wireless microphone during this weekend's All-Star festivities in Oakland, Calif., is the cotton candy vendor in Section 215.

TNT, which will air tomorrow's rookie game, three-point and 2-ball shootouts and the return of the slam dunk competition after a two-year hiatus, will have at least six players miked during the rookie game, with others wired up during the other competitions.

NBC, which has Sunday's All-Star Game, will get coaches Phil Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy to wear mikes, as well as players Shaquille O'Neal, Reggie Miller, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett and Vince Carter and lead referee Joey Crawford.

The goal: to make the viewer feel as if he or she is right there.

"The NBA is giving us total access to all the things you don't get in a normal game. For us, that's a huge plus," said Jeff Behnke, a Turner producer.

Of course, "total access" is a bit of a misnomer. Though NBA coaches are nowhere near as paranoid about access as NFL officials and coaches, there is a limit to how much you will hear.

"I don't think in any way we'd try to embarrass somebody, to try to make it look like somebody is incompetent or in some way try to do something to upstage somebody," said Doug Collins, NBC's lead analyst.

"We're very sensitive about that, so the things that we do are things that we think will enhance the telecast, that people will enjoy hearing, that will bring them in part of the game, but there's still a player-coach confidence that can't be breached. If we do that, then in essence, we will wipe out anything we've tried to accomplish here in our telecast, where we're starting to get the confidence of these players, coaches and referees, that this is something good, and they will appreciate how it's being used. I think that's our approach."

TNT's All-Star coverage commences at 10 tonight with a one-hour preview. The rookie game starts at 4 p.m. tomorrow, with the evening program getting under way at 8. NBC's All-Star Game telecast starts at 6 p.m. Sunday with "Showtime," followed by the game at 6: 30.

A story to watch

All of the participants in this weekend's NBA All-Star gala should be required to watch the extraordinary documentary on Micheal Ray Richardson airing on TNT next week.

Narrated in first person by comedian Chris Rock, "Whatever Happened to Micheal Ray" follows the point guard through his drug-addled days with the Knicks, Warriors and Nets before he was finally bounced from the league for good in 1986. Richardson's family, NBA commissioner David Stern and his former teammates and coaches provide sobering testimony to the great player he could have become and the drug addict he became.

Richardson, who speaks haltingly, appears in the final segment of the one-hour program from his new home in Italy, to provide a moving punctuation mark to the show, which was co-produced by NBA Entertainment and his former agent, Charles Grantham. The program premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday and should not be missed.

On the green

The centerpiece of this month's "Real Sports" magazine show is an excellent examination of the effects of a gender discrimination suit brought by nine female members of a Massachusetts country club.

The nine women won an October jury verdict of $1.9 million against the Haverhill Golf and Country Club, 30 miles north of Boston, and the state judge who presided over the case has placed the club under his direct supervision to ensure that the terms of the verdict are carried out.

The piece, reported by CBS' Bernard Goldberg and produced by Nick Dolin, even-handedly explores the divisions the suit has caused, with a telling interview from one of the plaintiffs who says the verdict has caused a rift in her marriage.

It's yet another example of how solid reporting and the time to delve into all sides of an issue can produce good television. Other segments on the show, which premieres at 10 p.m. Monday on HBO, include profiles of Bryant and Jeanette Lee, a champion pocket billiards player, as well as a look at a male high school track athlete from Wisconsin who committed suicide after suffering from anorexia.

Around the dial

Flush from Wednesday's huge win over Duke, the Maryland men's basketball team meets Temple in Philadelphia in a Sunday game that gets ABC regional coverage. Dick Vitale does the analysis and Brad Daugherty mines the sideline for reporting gold, while Brent Musburger calls the action. Well, two out of three ain't bad. Air time is 3: 30 and Channel 2 has the game.

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