If Jayson Williams's new gig as an NBA analyst for NBC becomes
too mundane for him, he should head over to HBO and demand his
own comedy special. Before his debut on the Nov. 3 coverage of
Michael Jordan's return against the Knicks, Williams offered the
kind of verbal grenades that should make him a favorite with NBA
viewers who flock to Charles Barkley for similar off-the-cuff
commentary on Turner Sports. To wit:

--Williams on Michael Jordan: "I know he's going to get into
better condition, but there are three ages of a man. There's
youth and middle age, and there's 'Uh, you look good.' Against
the Knicks he was Uh, you look good."

--On Sixers coach Larry Brown: "As a coach, Brown can go in and
out on you. Today you're his favorite player, tomorrow you're
Saddam Hussein."

--On David Robinson: "I never saw anybody so scared of Shaquille
O'Neal as he was last year. I'd like to pick San Antonio to win
it all, but I don't know which David Robinson will show up--the
Admiral, the Private or the Boy Scout."

--On Barkley: "I'm not trying to get it on with Charlie. He was
a better player than me, and he can talk more s--- than me."

Based on the debut broadcast of the rejiggered NBA on NBC studio
show--featuring new faces Williams, former 76ers president Pat
Croce and former coach Mike Fratello--it looks as if the network
has a significantly better show on its hands. Any casting change
would have been a improvement over P.J. Carlesimo and Kevin
Johnson, who last season proved to be a better cure for sleep
disorders than Ambien. Not surprisingly, the 33-year-old Williams
was jacked up on opening night, going for too many one-liners,
but he showed why he'll be entertaining throughout the season.
After Croce took umbrage at Brown's claims that Croce had meddled
in the relationship between Brown and Allen Iverson, Williams was
quick to crack, "There goes your Jesse Jackson status as a
mediator."

Although he has a two-year deal with NBC and plans to make a
career in broadcasting, Williams, who retired after the 1999-2000
season because of a leg injury, concedes that he still thinks
about a comeback as a player. "The studio stuff is great, but I
miss the game so much," he says. "You don't know how much you
miss your water until your well runs dry."

--R.D.

NBC found a keeper in NBA studio analyst Jayson Williams, whose
jabs were mixed with humor.

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