Full disclosure: I didn’t stay up for the entirety of Wednesday night’s NBA doubleheader on ESPN.

I’d mostly had the late game on for white noise while working (which is how I spent most of the night, including on two posts for this very site that you can read here and here! Synergy!), and the nightcap of Wolves-Clippers wasn’t nearly as entertaining as the earlier Bulls-Knicks contest (or the game I had actively watched, which saw the very fun Pacers knock off the Warriors.)

The NBA regular season is a bit of a slog at times; even the most ardent “THIS LEAGUE” types would probably admit that some games just don’t end up with a lot of juice. That had been my experience for the first half of Minnesota-LA; a lot of solid defense leading to missed iso-threes for both teams led to a 43-38 halftime score. My expectations for the second half weren’t high, and I was already planning on turning it off and going to bed rather than pretending to be invested.

And then (in another win for synergy as I’m someone constantly looking for topics to write about), a production wrinkle from ESPN kept me watching when the on-court product had already lost me. Mark Jones mentioned that Chris Finch was mic’d up for the game, which is something we’ve obviously seen across sports. This alone wasn’t that intriguing.

But rather than cross-cutting a package of mic’d up highlights from the first half, ESPN’s broadcast simply threw it to Finch, basically. They weren’t in his ear chatting, either; it was just live coach audio, with Jones and analyst Mark Jackson laying out for a pretty lengthy stretch of action.

I’ve only been able to find one clip, but it’s a representative moment, as we get Finch calmly asking official Josh Tiven for an explanation of an earlier foul call on Rudy Goebert.

For a little while there, during an otherwise lackluster game, the viewing experience felt different in a very good way. Even just the extended stretch without commentary made me snap to attention, and while Finch wasn’t exactly giving away the store in terms of terminology or playcalling, it was as if someone had really dropped me into a courtside seat for a while, privy to overhearing discussions and insight I wouldn’t possibly get in any other scenario.

I confess that I don’t know if this is a regular ESPN move this year; I tried to research it and didn’t see anything suggesting it is. And as Mark Jackson notes at the end of that clip, not every coach is a candidate; given the complete lack of profanity and other potential drama-inducing moments (Finch didn’t get after any of his own players, for example), it’s possible ESPN gave him a general heads-up that he’d be live on-air early in the third quarter.

Again, this wasn’t a massive part of the broadcast, nor was it a revolutionary idea. (Other sports have attempted it already, with varying degrees of success and buy-in.)

But if this can somehow be a regular occurrence, I’d absolutely make a point to try and watch more often. Anything that removes some of the inherent filter between a viewer and the game is a good thing.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a columnist at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer. He is probably talking to a dog in a silly voice at this very moment.