SBD/November 2, 2011/Media

NBA Lockout Watch, Day 125: Dark Opening Night Forces ESPN To Go Into The Vault

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"SportsCenter" anchors note empty arenas on what should have been opening night
The NBA season was scheduled to start last night with a doubleheader on TNT featuring Bulls-Mavericks and Thunder-Lakers, but with the lockout canceling games through at least the end of November, highlight shows were forced to turn to other alternatives. ESPN's Steve Levy began the 11:30pm ET version of "SportsCenter" by saying, “NBA arenas sit empty on what would be opening night.” After introducing himself and broadcast partner Scott Van Pelt, Levy said, “Coming up, we have real NBA highlights, only they’re from last season.” The broadcast led with highlights of the Northern Illinois-Toledo college football game, followed by clips from two NHL games -- Ducks-Capitals and Wild-Red Wings. Coming back from the first commercial break, Van Pelt said, “On a night when we should be watching the NBA tip-off its 2011-12 season, arenas are -- sadly -- dark. But a week from now, hoopheads will have fight songs ringing in their ears and the best gyms from coast-to-coast will begin filling up for the college basketball season. Now if any sport figures are to benefit the most from the absence of the NBA, it’s college basketball, which returns a bunch of players who will be in the league eventually but who stuck around for another year on campus.” About 30 minutes into the broadcast, the show reported on an internal letter from NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter to the players about the union's plans to “stand firm in our resolve to negotiate a fair deal.” Van Pelt: “Notice how all these letters secretly get out, they get leaked. A little bargaining strategy?” Following the report, highlights from last season’s opening night in the NBA were aired because, as Levy noted, “Trying to make the best of a bad situation, people.” Highlights from Heat-Celtics, Rockets-Lakers and Suns-Trail Blazers were shown, with Van Pelt saying, “Again, this happened last year, so if you’re watching this right now and you’re really hammered on your couch, saying, ‘Wait a minute, wow, wow! Wait a minute!’ These highlights are a year old.” Levy: “They feel stale" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 11/1).

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Last night’s edition of NBA TV’s “GameTime” opened with an outside shot of AmericanAirlines Center in Dallas and an in-arena announcer saying, “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the AmericanAirlines Center and today’s celebration of the 2010-2011 NBA Champions, your Dallas Mavericks!” NBA TV’s Matt Winer said, “Here’s what we would be talking about if not for the labor dispute, including the Mavericks on their home floor against the Bulls. Kevin McHale would have taken over the Rockets in his regular-season debut in Utah against the Jazz. The Thunder and the Lakers would have begun Mike Brown’s tenure as the Lakers head coach. All not happening.” NBA TV’s Brent Barry noted, “What an awesome way to start the show.” Winer replied, “A bit of a downer.” NBA TV’s Steve Smith: “You had me way up here, Matt. Now you’re bringing me back down” (“GameTime,” NBA TV, 11/1).

FILLING THE TV VOID: ESPN’s Hannah Storm today asked viewers, “So what did you watch on TV last night? Well, it wasn’t the Mavericks getting their rings or raising that first banner. There was a ‘Bones’ marathon on in place of the NBA. But with all due respect to Dr. Brennan and company, it wasn’t exactly KD versus Kobe. The harsh reality of the NBA lockout hit home for fans and players alike as opening night, quite simply, did not happen. A huge hole in the sports calendar” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 11/2). ESPN's Jim Rome yesterday said, "The sequel to the best NBA season we have had in years was supposed to kick-off tonight and we’ve got bupkis.” Rome said he would be “switching back-and-forth” between last night’s NHL games. Rome: “But I’m guessing most everybody else will be locked in on freaks hoarding and the C-listers doing the Samba” (“Jim Rome Is Burning,” ESPN2, 11/1).
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