On a recent morning high above the Manhattan skyline, TNT's
Asked about recent reports that he was interested in becoming an NBA general manager, Barkley offered a unique sales pitch on why he should get a shot. "I always say: Some of these other guys suck, so give me my chance to suck," Barkley said. "I know I can do a better job and I think it would be fun to build my own team. [TNT's]
Everyone is an armchair GM at the beginning of the NBA season, especially those who analyze the sport on television. On Monday TNT hosted a luncheon on the 10th floor of the Time Warner Center in midtown Manhattan, which featured Barkley in his usually unplugged state. He was joined by Smith and
The always-voluble analyst offered some interesting takes on a number of topics ...
"There are five teams that can win the championship, but I think all five have questions. Clearly, the Lakers are the favorite but you have the
"I drink. I like to drink. I'm never going to stop drinking unless the doctor tells me to. Clearly, you've got to be careful not to drink and drive. It's interesting when something happens. Well, someone will say, 'Is he an alcoholic?' No, I'm not an alcoholic but I like to drink. I don't drink every day. I think the classes were great for me. But I just leaned that drinking and driving is a very serious thing and not to do it. But everybody is watching everything you do and it's becoming more and more intense now. Anything you do will be out there.
"Let's be realistic here. LeBron is the only guy who I think is a franchise changer. There are bunch of guys who will be free agents who are good players, but LeBron is the only one where you go, 'OK, we might not be championship material if we get LeBron but we are close.' He's the only guy. Let's say you get
"I was watching football the other day and I saw
No topic generated more discussion at the luncheon than what James will do at the end of season when he can opt for free agency. "
Added Smith: "There is no rationale for him to leave and go to any other city other than New York. There are only three franchises you can leave Cleveland if you are LeBron James: The Lakers, Celtics, and the Knicks. All the others are parallel in terms of mystique or anything else."
Expect to see and read plenty about James and the league this season. As a television entity, the NBA is coming off one of its best seasons in years. TNT regular-season coverage was up 14 percent for its 53-game schedule, and the network's 43 postseason games were up 16 percent from the previous year. ESPN's coverage of the NBA regular season on ABC was up 16 percent from 2008, an increase that represented the most-viewed season on ABC in six years. The network was also up 19 percent in viewership for the playoffs and drew historic numbers for its airing of the Western Conference finals between the Lakers and Nuggets, including the five highest-rated and most-watched basketball games, pro or college, in ESPN history.
No team is a better television draw than the Lakers and they'll be seen often on national television. TNT's biggest regular-season game likely comes Jan. 21 when
"We work with the league but we do have our choice of which teams will draw ratings," said Turner Sports president
Indeed, the Celtics and Lakers will appear on ESPN/ABC 16 times (the maximum number a team can appear on a network) followed by the Cavs (14) and the Magic (14). ABC's games include six appearances each by the Celtics and Lakers and ESPN/ABC will show five Christmas Day games including a doubleheader featuring the Magic at Celtics (2:30 p.m.) followed by the Cavs at Lakers. The finals rematch between the Lakers and Magic comes on March 7 on ABC.
In all, ESPN and ABC will show 90 games this season, including 75 telecasts on ESPN and the NBA Finals and 15 regular-season games on ABC. (ESPN Radio will air 26 regular-season games with play-by-play announcer Jim Durham and the never-out-style Jack Ramsey).
Unlike the volatility we saw during the offseason among NBA free agents, the league's broadcasting partners mostly remained the same regarding talent. The most newsworthy hire was Turner's addition of
"It will be good or bad. I just can't see him being neutral. Ron's not a neutral-type guy. I don't see him having a hugely negative effect because of the strong personalities of Kobe Bryant,
"It's not Shaq but who plays with Shaq. Shaq will do his thing and he has always played better when he had a power forward -- whether it was
"Once you are in the fight, you are always itching to get back in. I've enjoyed the last three months as much as I've enjoyed three months in a long time. It's been very relaxing. You know these preview shows are no different than what we did around our office. It's like, 'Hey, what do you think the Bucks? How are these guys going to do?' You were always evaluating the other teams, the moves they made, how they will fit together. The nice thing is I could roll out bed and do this thing. But there is something about being in the fire and getting your nose knocked and bloodied. I came in the league in the fall of 1980 and it's been a long time I have not been affiliated with a team."
McHale said he will occasionally pop in on the Inside the NBA studio show, setting up some potential interesting conversation with he and Barkley. "How will Kevin do? I don't know," Barkley said. "Everybody don't relax on TV. But you know what the key is? You can't act like you are on television. I hope he's just able to relax and have fun."