It may be coming later than expected, but TNT’s revamped Tuesday night package begins in earnest this week, with a new studio team and two new broadcaster pairings calling a star-studded doubleheader.
Turner’s replacement for Players Only was delayed after the tragic helicopter accident that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others. Last Tuesday’s Lakers-Clippers blockbuster matchup was ultimately postponed and replaced with an incredible Inside The NBA tribute from the Staples Center floor that should bring home an Emmy award.
While the mourning for Kobe goes on, TNT will debut its studio crew of Adam Lefkoe, Shaquille O’Neal, Candace Parker, and Dwyane Wade before Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks take on Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans and DeMar DeRozan, and the San Antonio Spurs visit LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Lakers. The crew of Brian Anderson, Jim Jackson, and Jared Greenberg, who called last Tuesday’s Miami-Boston game, will broadcast the Giannis-Zion clash, and Ian Eagle, Stan Van Gundy, and Chris Haynes will call the late game.
Anderson has called NBA TV’s Center Court games every Tuesday this season— Spero Dedes takes over each Monday the rest of the year— marking the first time he’s been at NBA games on a consistent basis since he was the Spurs’ sideline reporter in 2007. He was on backup and stand-by mode for the last five years for Turner, calling playoff games and extra regular season broadcasts.
“It’s been fun for me to have a regular schedule, a more rhythmic schedule,” Anderson told Awful Announcing.
During the fall and winter, when not calling Milwaukee Brewers games locally or TBS baseball games nationally, Anderson has a consistent schedule now with NBA games during the week and college basketball games on the weekend. He’s also appreciative of the great teams that will be featured on these Tuesday matchups and the NBA’s ability and willingness to flex better games in when warranted.
“I work in three groups, essentially, the NCAA, MLB and the NBA,” Anderson said, “and I’ve been really impressed that they do work hard to try to get those great games. I love our schedule. I’m looking at every game going ‘man, that’s got some pop to it.’”
Eagle has been calling Nets games since 1994 and was working playoff games for Turner over the last few years, but this will be his first crack at calling regular national NBA games.
“We were always trying to figure out a way to do more together,” Eagle told AA. “And when this Tuesday night package popped up, it just felt like a perfect fit. I live in the NBA year round, and this now allows me to be a part of marquee matchups, national games. This is what you dream of as a broadcaster.”
Van Gundy, who’s been doing studio work for NBA TV, was looking forward to calling his first game when AA spoke with him back in October. He and Eagle knew each other a bit while Van Gundy was a coach and executive, most recently for the Detroit Pistons, and Eagle thinks he’ll bring a wealth of information, knowledge, insight, and some humor and levity to their games together.
“It’s always important to me,” Eagle said, “that the broadcast dynamic is loose and open.”
In coming from the studio to doing games, Van Gundy will get to zero in on specific matchups and player tendencies, areas Eagle expects him to thrive in.
“He will attack this from a number of different angles,” Eagle said. “I think he wants to be really good at this. He has a lot of pride.”
Anderson and Jackson first worked college games together for Big Ten Network back in 2009, and he even covered him during his playing days while Anderson worked for the Spurs. The two worked four times together last year for Fox College Hoops, and Anderson said he’s worked more with Jackson than anyone else on the Turner roster. It showed, because their chemistry was easy and flowing in last week’s Miami-Boston tilt.
“He’s one of my favorite analysts I’ve ever worked with,” Anderson said.
The California-based Haynes will mainly work western games, while Greenberg will report on the east contests, though that’ll be subject to change. While Greenberg has been working the sidelines for a while now, Tuesday will be a debut of sorts for Haynes, Yahoo’s lead basketball analyst and reporter.
“It’s something different in his career and utilizing all of his talents as an insider, as a storyteller and as someone that can deliver breaking news,” Eagle said. “So I’m very much looking forward to working with Chris. I’ve admired his work.”
Tuesday’s broadcast will mark the official end of the Players Only era, which lasted two seasons and had former NBA players call and analyze Tuesday games to ensure Marv Albert and Kevin Harlan don’t take on an added workload. Though Turner seemed happy with Players Only, they elected to go in a different direction this year for the second half.
“I’m glad they had carved out a spot for us,” Anderson said, jokingly. “I was worried that they were gonna be so great at it that they weren’t gonna need us anymore.”
Bringing Eagle and Anderson in will provide a more traditional approach, but both thought that Players Only provided some unique and interesting moments when they were on the air, like back-and-forths and stories that you’d only get between former professional athletes. But some of the players learned a lot from their impromptu training, including Players Only alumni Greg Anthony and Dennis Scott, who teamed up with Anderson on Center Court.
“Greg is so seamless going in and out of commercials now, and I think it really helped him and us,” Anderson said. “And Dennis, he’s a legit reporter now that he understands the job well. So I think there’s a lot of positives that came out of it.”
Eagle said that they’ll try to bring the deeper conversations that were conducted on Players Only to the Tuesday TNT broadcasts, but ultimately it’s about the games and making the audience want to spend two-and-a-half hours with you each week.
“I don’t think fans want robots. They want people that they can relate to and connect with and feel some form of kinship with in watching these games together,” Eagle said. “Ultimately, that’s what makes a difference on a broadcast.”