TNT Sports 2007-2008 Season NBA Teleconference: Reggie Miller, Marv Albert, Doug Collins and Turner Sports Executive Producer, Jeff Behnke
Earlier today I had the honor of taking part in a teleconference with some of the top NBA beat writers in the country to kick off 2007-2008 NBA seasonal coverage on TNT. Participants of the teleconference panel were as follows: Reggie Miller, retired NBA player and now full time NBA analyst. Doug Collins, former NBA player/coach who has become a fixture as an NBA analyst on TNT. Marv Albert, in my opinion, the best play by play announcer in sports and Jeff Behnke, Turner Sports executive producer. Very interesting conversation and one you’ll find quite intriguing. I found out that Ricky Davis has been traded to the Miami Heat for Antoine Walker.
We’ll also be offering a 2007-2008 NBA Preview in the next couple of days here at TSF.
TNT will tip-off the 2007-08 NBA season on Tuesday, October, 30 at 7 p.m. ET with a special one-hour preview show, NBA Tip-Off ’07, with studio host Ernie Johnson and analysts Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith who will be joined by guest analyst Magic Johnson, followed by an exclusive opening night doubleheader. The first game will feature the defending World Champion San Antonio Spurs hosting the Portland TrailBlazers at 8 p.m. ET, while game two will feature the Houston Rockets visiting the L.A. Lakers. The night will conclude with the Emmy® award-winning studio show Inside the NBA with Johnson, Barkley, Smith and Johnson.
Miller on his new full-time analyst role: “Though I will miss all the green room fights with Charles (Barkley) and Kenny (Smith), I really look forward to working with Marv (Albert) and Mike (Fratello). I was tutored under Marv, Steve (Kerr), Kevin (Harlan) and Doug (Collins) and now I’m looking forward to being full time with Marv.”
Albert on working with a new team of analysts in Reggie Miller, Doug Collins (for a portion of games) and Mike Fratello: “I was beginning to think that we had pushed Reggie back into the possibility of playing. I feel very fortunate to be working with this combination of Reggie, Doug Collins and Mike Fratello. For me, it’s the best of both worlds, and I’m looking forward to getting things started in San Antonio (next Tuesday with Opening Night on TNT).”
Collins on the revitalized Boston Celtics: “It’s good to have the Boston Celtics relevant again. Growing up as a young player and playing for the (Philadelphia) 76ers you could count on the 76ers, Celtics and New York Knicks always being at the top of the heap in the NBA. They always had consistently good teams, championship teams and excellence was a big part of the franchises. It’s good to be once again talking about the Celtics. Kevin Garnett is in a good situation; by nature he doesn’t really want to throw up big numbers scoring-wise because he loves to defend, rebound and pass the ball from the top of the floor. You have two proven scorers in Paul Pierce and Ray Allen who can give you 50- plus points every night. The chemistry will be there, but can (the Celtics) get the point guard player they need so those guys can carry the load? I think you’re going to see KG in the MVP hunt because he’s going to have a great year.”
Miller on the Houston Rockets: “The saying goes that ‘everything in Texas is bigger’ and that is rightfully so. Houston is one of two or three teams that can beat San Antonio this year, they really shored up the power forward positions by picking up (Luis) Schola, which is something they lacked. The up-tempo, Rick Adelman-style will really help Tracy McGrady. I know they haven’t won anything, Tracy and Yao (Ming) paired together, but it’s the law of averages (and) the law of averages says that they are going to win and get out of the first round.”
Collins on the defending NBA Champions San Antonio Spurs: “I like the three Texas teams as well. San Antonio has an advantage because (Coach Gregg) Popovich has a great feel on how to manage the regular season, that’s so important with a veteran team. They come into training camp and their goal is to be playing into June, they have a sense of purpose about what they want and this year their model will be to finally repeat (championship seasons).”
Miller on his decision not to come out of retirement and play for the Celtics: “Physically I probably could have done it, but mentally I don’t think I could have. People don’t understand professional athletes, how much time and how mentally prepared you have to be at this point in your career and in your livelihood. I don’t think that for eight months I could have done it mentally. What interested me the most (about coming back for) this year was the chance to play with Kevin (Garnett). He’s like a kid in a candy store, he is so excited because he has the talent (around him that) he’s always wanted and (now) has a chance to play and go deep in the playoffs.”
Collins on the Miami Heat and a potential acquisition of Ricky Davis: “I’ve gone on record that I think Miami is going to be in a dog fight to make the playoffs. I’m not sure where their team is, you have two magnificent stars with Shaq (O’Neal) and Dwyane Wade, and if they can carry them than they will be fine. The questions are Shaq’s health and how dominant can he be over 82 games. Dwyane Wade is … such a fearless player and one of the things that makes him so great is the way he attacks the rim and laying his body out there, but he’s coming off of knee surgery and shoulder surgery. If they get Ricky Davis, they are getting some speed and quickness in the line-up, something they desperately need. The NBA is going away from a power game, it’s going to an international style, the floor is spread and you got to have quickness to keep the ball out of the middle of the lane. The game is a little different, it’s not much of a power game anymore. Speed and quickness are of the essence and that’s an area that when you look at Miami they come up a little bit short.”
Miller on the Miami Heat: “I’m not sure that if Shaq (O’Neal) and Dwyane Wade were starting the season that they would even win the division. I like Washington and the real sleeper of that division is Orlando. Miami needs to get younger, not older. Ricky Davis a fabulous scorer but they need to get younger and more athletic.”
Miller on why the Phoenix Suns can’t get over the hump in the playoffs: “When (the Phoenix Suns) have won 55-plus games the last (few) years and had the MVP (Steve Nash) on (their) team for two of those years (you’d) think (they’d) be in the playoffs by now. They have a unique style (of play) that (other teams) have tried to copy. I think Phoenix had a great pickup in Grant Hill, but they dropped the ball when they lost Kurt Thomas who was their best defender. I love their style, they are one of the teams that can beat San Antonio in a best-of-seven series. This is going to be a very interesting year for the Phoenix Suns.”
Collins on Amare Stoudamire’s importance to the Phoenix Suns: “It’s going to be critical for Amare Stoudamire in the last six to seven minutes of a game to be able to defend and rebound enough to help the (Phoenix Suns) win against (other teams). He’s got to be a presence on the defensive end (of the court).”
Miller on being considered for “Dancing with the Stars:” “I was considered (for “Dancing with the Stars”) but as Clyde Drexler showed, (the show) is not conducive to basketball players.”
Collins on how crucial Kobe Bryant is to the Los Angeles Lakers: “In my mind, Kobe is the best player in the NBA. He has the ability to dominate the game on both ends of the floor. If Kobe comes in and puts his heart into this team, he can be an incredibly unifying force. If he doesn’t, the team is going to be very divided. There’s no question that Kobe is going to put up big numbers and perform but is he going to bring his teammates along with him?”
Miller on becoming a broadcaster: “I’m not surprised (about becoming a broadcaster) because when I worked 2-3 years with the WNBA I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Players somewhat prepare themselves for this when (they) are on the back of the (team) bus. This is what (former Pacers teammate and current broadcaster) Mark Jackson used to do. We were the ones giving out offensive and defensive reports, scouting reports and break down film sessions. So it’s not surprising that Mark and I are in this position. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been very blessed that Turner has given me the opportunity to have the best of both worlds and be in the studio with Charles (Barkley), Kenny (Smith) and Ernie (Johnson) and (now) working with Doug (Collins), Kevin (Harlan) and Marv (Albert).”
Miller on the Indiana Pacers’ upcoming season: “I think the keys (to the Indiana Pacers) are (forward/center) Jermaine O’Neal and (point guard) Jamaal Tinsley. If they stay healthy, if Jermaine plays 65 games they’ll win 41-47 games. If he plays less, it’s going to be a struggle for them. (O’Neal and Tinsley) have to buy into (new head coach) Jim O’Brien’s system. If they buy into the system, the rest of the (Pacers) will follow.”
Miller on the perception of league MVP and Dallas Maverick Dirk Nowitzki: “(Dirk Nowitzki) almost seemed embarrassed to accept the MVP trophy following the first round loss to the Golden State Warriors. The only thing missing from Dirk’s game is his mental approach. He is going to have an unbelievable year, but come May it’s going to wear on his mind that the best player on the best team somewhat disappeared during the playoffs. It’s going to be heavy on his mind.”
Michael Tillery: Question for Reggie and Doug. There are few players today that have a mid range game. Ray Allen and definitely Richard Hamilton come to mind in curling in and out of the lane. What responsibility do NBA players have to take it back and reestablish the fundamentals of the game.
Reggie: Go ahead coach.
Collins: “The thing about it Mike is I think that the three-point line–and Reggie can attest to this because he’s the greatest three point shooter ever–is that the game has so changed. When I played–and there was no three point line–you ran for layups on fast breaks. You ran hard to the basket for layups. Now in the NBA, you watched Reggie and these great (current) three point shooters continue to run and then slide down to that corner. They’re so used to having (the three) and maybe using a pump fake and use a couple of dribbles to get to the basket. I’ll tell you as a former NBA coach that we worked that we worked on a mid-range game every single day in practice. We did what we had to get to take advantage of the players on the opposition. I coached Richard Hamilton in Washington and we worked on it every day. I had Allan Houston in Detroit and we did the same thing with him. Coaches do work on this, but the game has changed. The three is sort of like an invisible fence for a dog that when he goes outside the fence he gets shocked. Sometimes guys get behind that three-point line and they just stand there (afraid to go inside). I love seeing guys slash to the basket and the finish, as well as the great three-point shooting. Guys want to start learning at the three point line and then learn to move in (to a mid-range game). I was taught that you get a mid-range game and then you expand the game and move back (to threes). I see it today where younger payers are more worried about the three earlier and they are not getting the mid-range game.”
Reggie: “Why settle for two when you can go for three!” (All of us laugh)
“I definitely understand where coach is coming from but I think more so the responsibility falls way back to AAU basketball, the high school coaches and the college coaches. I think teaching and coaching–obviously because we have a coach on the line right here…you have to coach that. You can’t just let some guys come down wildfires from three. Some of the guys I watched growing up, Jeff Hornacek–or really a player like Jeff Malone who had an unbelievable mid-range game. Those things have to be taught. You have to be skilled at a young age. I think in today’s Youtube, ESPN highlights, you rarely see a mid-range (jumper). You either see a dunk or a three. That’s the society that we live in.”
Collins: “You know Reggie, also with the three point shot, it’s almost like a home run in baseball. I know the guy hits a double, gets over to third and scores on a sacrifice fly. With basketball, sometimes guys want to start at the three point line and learn to move in. I was taught just the opposite. You get a mid-range game and then expand your range and move back. You see today, where younger players are worried about the three earlier, not getting the mid-range game, and then trying to get it later.’
‘I coached Michael Jordan. Michael very rarely ever took threes. We know what his mid-range game was. At some point in time he was in the three point shooting competition because every day after practice he shot against John Paxson, B.J. Armstrong and Craig Hodges. He wanted to add that to his game.”
MT: One more question for Marv. Your professionalism is unquestioned and also unparalleled. Could you tell us what makes you so good and also your approach?
Albert: “I appreciate that. I love doing what I do. I loved it ever since doing it with myself in the schoolyard as I was playing or turning down the sound on the television and practicing doing play by play. Of all the sports I do–I love doing hockey and the NFL–I’ve always felt that my particular style lends itself to basketball on radio and television. What I particularly enjoy is the fact that I’ve been able to work with so many great people. I think it’s very very important who you work with and have that kind of repoire. I always have the same type of repoire on the air and off because you don’t want to take on a personality that is not yourself.”
“Particularly with television, the color analyst is so important. It’s really my job to set up that person for the commentary. I just feel that I want to understate the game. The game speaks for itself. You don’t have to talk that much. They games we do is always a game of significance–regular season or in the playoffs. The crowd is going crazy. It’s a big game. It’s exclusively on Thursday nights on TNT, so it’s a big night. To me, it’s all made to order in terms of handling this type of situation (play by play).”
Collins: “Hey, I’d like to follow up on that being one of Marv’s partners through the years. I think the amazing thing about Marv is that with every game that he’s done, his next game he views as his most important. We traveled last night. He’d done the Monday night game in Jacksonville and traveled to the seminar yesterday and spent all day there. We got in late last night in Phoenix. They changed the game. We had prepared for the Lakers and Utah. Now he has Phoenix and Denver. His level of preparation…he carries news papers around with him. I just marvel at the way he prepares for games. That says a lot about his love for the sport. That is what has separated him from all the others. His passion and his level of preparation.”
Marv: “I don’t know what I’m going to do with that Lakers/Utah junk…(Laughter).”
MT: Thank you very much guys.