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THE HYPE GAME ON ... FILM NBA ENTERTAINMENT GETS ALL THE BEHIND-THE-SCENES ACTION THAT NBC CAN'T.

Byline: - David Kronke

The Lakers may have gotten off to a sputtering start in the NBA Finals, but NBA Entertainment hit the ground running. NBA Entertainment is the hoopla behind the hoopla, controlling virtually everything that anyone sees of the Finals that aren't on NBC during the game itself. This includes commemorative videos, NBA.com and NBA.com TV, international TV feeds, auxiliary TV shows like ``Inside Stuff,'' trading cards - the list goes on, as it would for any well-oiled marketing machine.

While the Finals were in town, NBA Entertainment's ``War Room'' was at the Biltmore Hotel. There, Paul Hirschheimer - vice president of Field Production, but for all concerned here, simply the general of the War Room - runs the operation. Four 4-by-7-foot boards relate NBAE's game plan (far larger than the erasable ink boards in the Lakers' or 76ers' locker rooms), dispatching camera crews throughout the arena. NBC uses 18 cameras per game; NBA Entertainment has 17 video crews, four film crews and eight courtside robotic cameras capturing the action.

``I want to hit that arena and take that arena over,'' Hirschheimer instructs his troops. Although NBC is an ostensible partner in this, when it comes to getting prime camera real estate along the sidelines, Hirschheimer orders, ``Claim your turf!''

At Staples Center, NBAE camera crews get better access than the rest of the media. Film, as opposed to videotape, is reserved for the most exclusive moments, such as Allen Iverson lacing up his shoes accompanied by rap pouring from the Discman on the seat next to him (here's guessing the actual lyrics won't make that commemorative video).

Back on the floor, two NBAE employees run through a checklist of celebrity seating assignments for easy consultation during the game. Staples has a strict fire warden, so there are arcane rules as to where in the arena NBAE crews can and can't interview celebrities.

Meanwhile, beneath the bowels of Staples Center, while Hugh Hefner and seven concubines exit a limo at the celebrity entrance, nearby a trailer houses international feeds. Eighteen foreign-language teams call play-by-play during the game; they're each given a two-minute window on the Staples floor to tape You-Are-There background fed to their countries. (In all, the Finals go to 205 countries in 41 languages.)

In the trailer, tech guys snicker at some of the announcers' effusive reporting styles. Terry Schindler, VP of broadcasting, contends with requests from each country - ``Japan just called, wanting to know what city shots we'd be providing'' she says, (answer: beach, surfers, etc.), while one foreign announcer instructed her, ``Remember how I like my two-shot.''

Everyone in NBAE follows the script closely; it's just that in Game 1, the Lakers didn't. The next morning, Shaquille O'Neal is scheduled to appear on NBAE's kids' show ``Inside Stuff,'' being taped this week in a Staples Parking lot in fairly oppressive heat. Crew members have to keep audience members from swarming Shaq - in a Dunk.net T-shirt and white silk shorts - who, given the previous night's outcome, is in a less-than-ebullient mood.

``Forget it, forget it,'' he rebuffs an instruction; looking over a TelePrompTer's spiel, he says, ``Nah, I ain't saying all that.'' He tapes a couple of segments then bolts for his black SUV. Away from the crowd, Ahmad Rashad, the show's host, tries to assuage an executive: ``If they'd won the game, he would've stayed out here the entire time.''

The whole media circus has now set up shop in Philadelphia.

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4 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 3) Star Search

It couldn't possibly be a Laker game without celebrities sitting courtside, now could it? Spotted at Wednesday's NBA finals opener were Mike Myers, above, gesturing (inaccurately, we should point out) to the fans; the always-courtside Jack Nicholson, at right with Lou Adler (left); and the ``The Animal's'' Rob Schneider, below, who wept into his crying towel. We don't know wherther it was the game or his box-office take that got his goat.

(4) Laker center Shaquille O'Neal high-fives his young fans after taping ``Inside Stuff'' in front of the Staples Center.
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 10, 2001
Words:676
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