Both Turner and ESPN are now reportedly sending their NBA play-by-play announcers and game analysts to Orlando for the league’s planned resumption. Andrew Marchand of The New York Post broke that news Tuesday, writing about this with the framing that 79-year-old NBA on TNT announcer Marv Albert won’t be going. Awful Announcing can confirm that the current plan is to have the national broadcast crews in Orlando. Here’s what Marchand tweeted Tuesday:
NEWS: Marv Albert will not be on play-by-play when NBA resumes in Orlando, The Post has learned.
* Marv's thoughts are in story
* TNT & ESPN play-by-players and analysts will be on site.
* Marv expects to return next season https://t.co/tCzq19GA07
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) June 30, 2020
Here’s more from Marchand’s piece, including comments from Albert:
Albert told The Post that he was growing more excited about participating on-site, but that was dampened with the recent surge of cases in Florida.
“I had second thoughts,” Albert said.
Albert received a call from the chairman of WarnerMedia News, Jeff Zucker, who oversees Turner Sports.
“He said to me, ‘Maybe this is something you should skip in my age bracket,’” Albert said before displaying some of his signature humor. “I’d like to point out to you that 79 is the new 78.”
This is a difference from NBA on TNT announcer Kevin Harlan’s early-June comments (on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Tom Byrne and Amin Elhassan, transcribed by Richard Deitsch of The Athletic), which said that broadcasters wouldn’t be on site until late in the tournament at the earliest. Here’s what Harlan said then:
“What I’ve heard from the folks at TNT is we will be in the studios in Atlanta and they will set up as close to possible a broadcast table like we would have courtside,” Harlan said.
“The one thing I have heard is that not until the conference finals would there be any consideration for broadcasters being in this setting. That might be the first time that an actual broadcaster might be on-site, doing a conference final, and of course, the NBA Finals.”
Of course, plans can change. But it’s unusual to see them change in this direction. Most of the shifts we’ve seen recently have been to more and more remote broadcasting in the interests of health and safety, so it’s curious to see this going the other way. And one of the things that’s usually cited as an impetus to have broadcasters on site, the crowd reaction, won’t be a factor in games played without fans.
Yes, there are some disadvantages to calling games remotely, including having to rely solely on camera feeds rather than your eyes and the technical challenges that come with having a game in one location and announcers in other locations. But a lot of networks so far have decided to make their broadcasts as remote as possible to try and limit the amounts of people on site, and it’s certainly unusual to see that going the other way in the NBA after remote broadcasts were previously floated. (And remote broadcasts are expected to be the norm for the RSN crews). It is notable that having the national announcers call games remotely would carry its own challenges, though, including that they’d have to travel to central hubs like Turner’s studios in Atlanta or ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Connecticut.
This also could be quite interesting when it comes to the multiple gigs that many of these broadcasters hold. For example, TNT’s primary play-by-play announcers after Albert are Kevin Harlan, Ian Eagle and Brian Anderson. Harlan and Eagle also do NFL work for CBS (and in Harlan’s case, for Westwood One as well), and Anderson does MLB work for TBS. They all have gigs beyond that as well, of course, but those look like some of the most prominent potential conflicts, especially with the NBA playoffs currently set for August-October and both the NFL and MLB looking to hold games during that time. If those announcers are busy with on-site NBA games, that could lead to some changes in terms of who’s calling other properties. We’ll see what happens here.