With Game 1 of the World Series on network Fox last night, ESPN and the NBA didn’t exactly burn one of their best Friday matchups of the calendar, offering up Pacers-Wizards to the nation.

As a Pacers fan whose free trial of Bally Sports+ just ended, it was a nice bonus for me. I watched a bit of NBA Countdown leading up to the game, hoping without much hope to see some actual analysis of the impending primetime game. Unsurprisingly, Stephen A. and Jalen Rose focused more on the ongoing “drama” with the Los Angeles Lakers, who were not playing on ESPN last night.

You can’t really listen to any ESPN NBA coverage without the same “debate” about the current situation in Los Angeles. This is frustrating to me as a smaller-market fan; I love Zach Lowe and his podcast, for example, but there have been multiple times where he’s been presented with a chance to discuss the Pacers and proceeded to frame them solely through the lens of whether the Lakers would trade for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield.

Hey, maybe this is what works! I’m not a national audience expert, although I can say that as someone interested in the NBA, I’m pretty much over the LA stuff. Russell Westbrook is a very bad fit with LeBron and Anthony Davis, and he also makes too much money to be moved easily. Until something changes, there’s not really much else to discuss, but that hasn’t stopped lengthy discussions like last we saw on last night’s Countdown.

Which made what followed such a welcome respite. The game was advertised for 7:30 PM, which meant of course it didn’t start until well after that. But rather than more Los Angeles discussion, the game crew focused on the game. That meant Cassidy Hubbarth interviewing Indiana rookie star Bennedict Mathurin via walk-and-talk through the tunnel, which was a nice twist on the usual courtside chat.


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A post shared by Cassidy Hubbarth (@cassidyhubbarth)

In less Sorkin-esque proceedings, viewers also got Jeff Van Gundy breaking down film with Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. The Pacers and Wizards had already played once this season, allowing for Van Gundy to ask about specific matchups and how Washington might make adjustments.

Van Gundy is clearly relaxed in this setting, and he got in and out of his questions quickly. That makes a ton of sense; we can always listen to Jeff talk about basketball. When you have an NBA head coach available to offer insight, letting him fill the airtime while breaking down clips is a much better choice.

It’s not super-granular basketball analysis, but this breakdown of what makes Bradley Beal special (using his scoring threat to enhance his playmaking) is so refreshing.

We got more Beal analysis as well, pivoting off that playmaking discussion to how at times the best thing for the team is for Beal to assert himself.

This is excellent all around, striking the right balance between wider appeal and real basketball insight. It’s much more valuable to viewers than whatever retread discussion about the Lakers incompetence led into it, and it only took a few minutes of airtime.

More of this, please.

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.