HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — For NBA fans like us, there’s nothing better than League Pass. Having the ability to watch every game every night (and then again the next day) is heaven.
Of course, with local broadcasts, you get local broadcasters, which can be good and bad. It can be good, because these guys know their teams better than most national broadcasters. It can be bad, because these guys love their teams more than most national broadcasters. And they’re usually not afraid to show that love.
The national guys aren’t perfect either. And if they’re not careful, they may be featured here, where we highlight the best and worst of NBA broadcasts.
Here are a few more moments that made us laugh, made us smarter, or made us shake our heads.
The Spurs-Rockets contest on Sunday was a great game, especially if you had your TV on mute. The game went down to the wire, with James Harden hitting the off-balance game-winner with five seconds left.
Unfortunately, the Rockets’ crew of Bill Worrell, Matt Bullard and Clyde Drexler made the broadcast a difficult listen, with several shake-your-head comments over the course of the night. So, we’re dedicating an entire edition of Air Check to this one game.
1. Off to a great start
Drexler sets the tone for the broadcast by complaining about the jump ball. The jump ball! And if you watch the jump ball, the only issue with it is that both Omer Asik and Tim Duncan jump too early.
Not to be outdone, Worrell joins Drexler in the jump ball critique (so does Bullard), and then calls for a travel 12 seconds into the Spurs’ first possession. Yep, this is how this broadcast is going to go.
2. Isn’t this Daryl Morey’s team?
Just a few minutes later, we get the dreaded team points-per-game graphic. The Rockets, of course, lead the league in that mostly meaningless stat.
Team points per game lacks a lot of context, specifically how the Rockets play at the league’s fastest pace. They do rank fifth in offensive efficiency, but they also rank 19th in defensive efficiency. So Drexler’s statement that “If you can score, you can do well in this league, especially in the playoffs” is also lacking some context.
Over the next few possessions, Worrell goes on to say that the Spurs used to rely on defense, and that Gregg Popovich decided a few years ago to “rely more on offense.”
Now, I didn’t expect Worrell to have read what I wrote just two days earlier. But it would be nice if broadcasters were aware of where the teams that are playing rank offensively and defensively. At the time of this game, the Spurs ranked third in defensive efficiency.
Led by general manager Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets are the team most invested in analytics. And it would be great if that was apparent when you watched their games. But unfortunately, the broadcast is well behind the curve.
3. The push in the back that nobody saw
When you first see this play, it’s unclear where the foul is. But both replays clearly show Asik push Duncan in the back.
Worrell: “I didn’t think there was a Rocket near enough to him to foul him!”
Worrell: “Who fouled him?”
Replay 2, where the push in the back is pretty obvious.
Bullard: “There was no contact AT ALL!”
Drexler: “Asik might have pushed him in the back a little bit.”
Worrell: “The baseline official made the call, so he couldn’t have seen anything.”
Worrell: “He doesn’t have x-ray vision.”
It’s hard to fathom that you’d prefer listening to Sean Elliott call a game on any given night, but this became the case on Sunday.
4. It was clear to us … but we have a bad angle
In the final minute, a rebound goes off of either Asik or Duncan, and the referees initially call a jump ball, which is pretty rare.
Worrell: “They have to look at it, because that was tipped out by San Antonio. That’s all there was to it.”
Drexler: “Duncan knocked it right out.”
Worrell: “Duncan knocked that ball out of bounds, folks.”
Then we see the replay.
Bullard: “Ooh. I don’t know. Omer’s hand looked like it was on the inside.” And later, “Maybe that is a jump ball. Maybe both guys hit it at the same time.”
Worrell, of course, gets in one more shot at the referee’s ability to toss up a fair jump ball, but they all basically agree that it’s a tough call. And the refs confirm the original call and do continue play with a jump ball.
Bullard: “I think to call that a jump ball in real time is a pretty impressive call.”
Drexler: “They got it right.”
Well, that’s good. But hilariously, Drexler ends the discussion by saying, “Of course, we couldn’t see it, because it was away from us.”
OK… Then why, exactly, were you insisting that the ball was off of Duncan just a minute ago?