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A BETTER WAY TO COVER THE NBA?

Byline: TOM HOFFARTH MEDIA

There's no zero-tolerance policy here for anyone who wants to give the stink eye to the way your friendly media outlets will cover the NBA this season. We're just here to warn you in advance that technical fouls for technical difficulties are part of the game.

Consider these ``improvements'':

ABC and ESPN, never seemingly happy with their NBA personnel compared to how TNT has a set roster and rarely changes, have done another musical-chairs shuffle with broadcasters and studio talent that pushes Scottie Pippen and B.J. Armstrong out and somehow makes Mark Jackson the new star player.

Jackson replaces the abrasive Hubie Brown on ABC's No. 1 team, hooked up with the otherwise innocuous play-by-play man Mike Breen, who took over in the middle of last season when Al Michaels jumped ship. Jackson also remains a part of the ABC pregame show with Dan Patrick and Michael Wilbon before, in true Joe Buck-style, running off to do his game.

Brown stays with Breen, but only on ESPN telecasts (the all-sports channel has 71 games to carry, plus playoffs). Brown also joins Mike Tirico on ABC secondary contests. Tirico, who isn't busy enough with ``Monday Night Football,'' heads ESPN's No. 2 team with Bill Walton and recently retired NBAer Jon Barry.

ESPN's studio shows will include Kiki Vandeweghe, Allan Houston and Jamal Mashburn.

``The goal is to find the right mix and chemistry and put the people in the right places, so we'll keep experimenting,'' said Norby Williamson, the ABC/ESPN executive in charge of production, not ruling out that there could be a three-person booth come playoff time to muck things up even more.

One of the new features on TNT's studio show will be occasional 90- second vignettes with an NBA player showing how to execute a fundamental element of the game. TNT executive producer Jeff Behnke says the idea came about last year when Kobe Bryant came into the studio during the playoffs and demonstrated to Kenny Smith how he gets into position for a last-second shot.

That said, the question was put forth on a TNT conference call with reporters: Why does the U.S. national team continue to get tripped up in international play?

``If you look at the players from 15, 20 and 25 years ago, the Magic's (Johnson), the Michael's (Jordan), the Larry Bird's and the Chris Mullin's -- as talented as they were, the were also fundamentally sound, and I think that is what is missing in a lot of the pros today,'' said TNT analyst Reggie Miller. ``If you look at a lot of the European players in their training camps, they are stressing the fundamentals: shooting, great pivot and footwork and passing. I think if we revert and go back to the fundamentals, you will see an improvement in our game.''

So then why would TNT want to bring NBA players in to teach kids about fundamentals? Unless the idea is to bring in the Andrei Kirilenkos of the league to put on the clinics for their American teammates. Is it too late to dig up those old CBS shows, ``Red on Roundball''?

Christmas still belongs to the Lakers and (fill in the perceived rival). On Dec. 25, ABC starts the first of 19 regular-season broadcasts by insisting this Kobe-vs.-Shaq angle is what people want to see before re-gifting, so everyone gets the Lakers at Miami at 11:30 a.m.

It could be worse. ESPN has the Miami Dolphins and NewYork Jets set for its Christmas night NFL contest.

New 570-AM show tries the local angle

An all-local morning sports show, at a local all-sports radio station? Such a novel idea.

Don Martin, the slick GM and program director at KLAC (570-AM), has relented in dropping the syndicated and unlistenable ``Mancow in the Morning'' to try out something called ``Roggin and Simers Squared'' in the 6-9 a.m. slot, starting Monday.

``I couldn't get enough 18- to 30-year-old listeners with Mancow in a year and a half, and if I had five years to build it, I would have kept him,'' Martin said. ``But now I have the Lakers starting (the team begins its 30th year on the station), and Big Joe (McDonnell) replacing Phil Hendrie at night and it's time to make everything sports like the rest of the station.''

KNBC Channel 4 anchor Fred Roggin, who had a five-year run in afternoon radio on KMPC-AM (1540) before pulling the ripcord in June, becomes what he calls ``the dysfunctional uncle'' in a family-focused show that highlights L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers and his daughter, Tracy, who for the past two years filled the 9-11 a.m. Sunday morning slot for the station.

The Roggin-Simers, ``good cop/bad cop'' matchup had been pitched by Simers and discussed for the past few months but logistics weren't worked out until recently. The plan is to balance sports and entertainment from regular appearances by former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden as well as ``Access Hollywood'' host Billy Bush.

``There's only so many rating points for sports radio in the morning, so the objective is to grab those and then grow it, which is the challenge,'' Roggin said.

Adds Martin: ``There will be a lot of moving parts to it. We have a sports producer and an entertainment producer both involved, but there will be a heavy-duty sports bend.''

The last real local sports-talk show in L.A. was more than a year ago, when Tony Bruno joined KMPC-AM and eventually went syndicated for the Sporting News Radio Network. Bruno and Mark Willard remain in that slot for the station, while KSPN (710-AM) counters with the syndicated Collin Cowherd show in that window.

-- Tom Hoffarth

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, 2 boxes

Photo:

(1) TNT's NBA studio show, with, from left, Reggie Miller, Ernie Johnson Jr., Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley, is fundamentally sound.

TNT

(2) ROGGIN

Box:

(1) WHAT SMOKES

(2) WHAT CHOKES
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 27, 2006
Words:996
Previous Article:BROTHERS MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
Next Article:USC FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: BROWN CLEARED TO PLAY.


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