Tuesday, February 14, 2012

TNT talks up NBA All-Star Game and NBA 1st half

From TNT Sports -

Notes from the 2012 Turner Sports NBA All-Star Conference Call – Feb. 14, 2012

On Thursday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. (ET), NBA TV will broadcast the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge Draft during GameTime with TNT’s Kenny Smith serving as the honorary Commissioner and Ernie Johnson hosting the live show.  TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal will serve as the general managers of the two opposing teams - TEAM CHUCK and TEAM SHAQ.  Each team will have a nine man roster, drafted from the rookie and sophomore player pool.

TNT and NBA TV will be in Orlando for live exclusive coverage of NBA All-Star 2012
on February 24-26.

On Friday, Feb. 24, TNT will present the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge at 9 p.m. (ET).  Beginning at 8 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, February 25, TNT will have exclusive live coverage of NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by State Farm. TNT’s exclusive presentation of the NBA All-Star Game presented by Kia Motors will tip off at 7:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, February 26.

During NBA All-Star 2012, NBA TV will deliver fans more than 95 hours of dedicated All-Star programming including a special NBA GameTime: All-Star Sunday (4 p.m. ET), followed by live coverage of the Sprint Pre-Game Concert at NBA All-Star (5 p.m. ET).  Throughout All-Star, NBA TV’s marquee roster of talent, including Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Steve Smith, Dennis Scott and Brent Barry, will be on site in Orlando providing fans with updates on NBA TV and NBA.com via Twitter.

This is the 27th year Turner Sports has featured NBA All-Star coverage, and the 10th consecutive year the NBA All-Star Game will be televised in prime time on TNT.


Shaquille O’Neal – TNT/NBA TV Analyst
Steve Kerr – TNT Analyst
Steve Smith – NBA TV Analyst
Jeff Behnke – SVP and Executive Producer, Turner Sports

Kerr on the most surprising team and player this season: “This is really a bizarre season. Maybe the biggest surprise, and that has gone under the radar, is the play of the [San Antonio] Spurs. I don’t think anyone could have predicted they would be where they are. It is just at testament to how strong that organization is. What has happened with [New York Knicks guard] Jeremy Lin the last five games is stunning. We are all in amazement at what we are seeing. It has made for some incredible storylines given that he has breathed life back in that franchise, where Carmelo Anthony couldn’t. It is a crazy story but fantastic.”

O’Neal on New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin: “He has taken New York by storm and he is an NBA sensation.  The guy you have never heard of is becoming a star. I think people will want to see what the guy can do.”

Kerr on the lineup for the New York Knicks: “Tyson Chandler has been a monster because he is the one rolling to the rim and scoring big. Now you throw Amar'e [Stoudemire] in and now you have two guys that want to roll. The question becomes can the Knicks space the floor. And when Carmelo [Anthony] comes back, can all those guys fit together?  It comes down to if Amar’e and Carmelo can adapt and perhaps play lesser roles - which they are not used to.”

O’Neal on forward Dwight Howard staying in Orlando and the situation being similar to his in 1992: “I don’t think it is similar because I had many different options. I wanted to stay in Orlando. I had everyone put their options on the table and I took the best one. There may be an underlining problem of what is really going on. I don’t know if he doesn’t like the organization or wants to be in a bigger city. I don’t know really know the problem. I’m sure they would like to move him so they don’t lose him.”

O’Neal on the Miami Heat being a Top 10 team going into the Playoffs: “Miami is always going to be at the top of the list. They are playing well right now and seem to have a rhythm. Good thing about them is that if one of their stars goes down, others will and know how to step up. It is going to be like last year. They have what it takes to get there but can they close? This year is going to be a tricky year.” 

Kerr on Miami Heat being a favorite in the Eastern Conference: “Miami is a heavy favorite. I worry about two things: One is fourth quarter execution. They tend to go back to their old habits and that is going to be an issue for them. The other thing I worry about is the pressure that is on them, that they put on themselves and that we [media] put on them. It is going to be enormous pressure on them and we have to see how they will respond.”

Kerr on what the Oklahoma City Thunder need to improve upon:  “OKC is the best team in the West.  I worry about fourth quarter execution. They are a little bit like Miami – West. They overwhelm you with talent and the ability to beat you off the dribble. But in the playoffs, can they execute when a team stays in front of them and slows the game down? Can they get easy baskets? They are the most talented team, so we’ll see.”

Smith on what is going on with the Charlotte Bobcats and what they need to do to recover:  “When I got a chance to play with them [Charlotte Bobcats], Bernie Bickerstaff created an atmosphere where the team that was coming back to Charlotte wasn’t winning a lot, but they were playing hard. This team right now looks like it is bottoming-out but they are about to rebuild from scratch. It comes down to - do they draft the best talent? And right now the Charlotte Bobcats are a team that is looking to rebuild.”  

Kerr on what is going on with the Charlotte Bobcats and what they need to do to recover:  “It’s going to be a tough go here [in Charlotte].  They’ve totally bottomed out.  They are a total disaster right now. They are going to have to get lucky in the lottery and be really strong as an organization in the next couple of years to get out of this.”  

O’Neal on the issues the Washington Wizards are having getting back on track: “The downside for Washington is you have a lot of young talent with no veteran leadership. If they had some veteran leadership it could be better.  As a big man, I watch JaVale McGee and I see the potential that he has. Other times I watch him and wonder who is teaching this kid. If they had good veteran leadership, they could start to turn it around.”

Kerr on the effect of the lockout on the players so far this season and whether or not it is showing up in the games: “Its showing the most in terms of consistency, or lack thereof, with the play. We are seeing games that are spectacular and then some duds where there is nothing in the tank. This season has proven you need training camps. You need practice. And you need rest. And there’s not enough of any of that this year. With that said, everyone is competing and doing the best they can. Inevitably, there are going to be some stinkers.”

Smith on how the condensed season is affecting players and the game: “There are some games where players just don’t have legs.  There are some teams with depth and the players and organizations understood going into this lockout you need to have 10-11 guys that can contribute.”

Kerr on his impressions of Cleveland Cavaliers rookie point guard Kyrie Irving after having only played 11 college games: “It’s gotten harder and harder to evaluate players the last decade because so many come out early and you don’t see them enough. Cleveland made a good choice. They knew the type of talent and potential he had [Kyrie Irving] at such an important spot. They knew they had to have someone at that position. I love what he has done. He’s aggressive; he’s tough to handle; it’s tough to get in front of him and he is definitely their cornerstone for the future. He’s a great pick.”

O’Neal on Cleveland Cavaliers rookie point guard Kyrie Irving: “He’s doing a fabulous job. This guy is on the right path. He’s a coachable guy. He’s a great team player. If Cleveland can make one or two moves this year and next year, they could become a respectable team again.”
Smith:  “Totally love his game because he’s so fundamentally sound. He’s poised, he’s mature and what I love about him is he is big and strong. He hasn’t been affected by a lot of different defenses thrown at him. He’s mentally been prepared for this league.”  

O’Neal on LeBron James’ legacy in Cleveland and how he sees Irving creating his own place: “What LeBron did was fabulous - legendary. He’s good. There will never be another LeBron, how he did it. He was a born leader. Kyrie is also a leader. [I’m] not trying to take anything away from him, I just urge people not to put too much pressure on him. Work him slowly.”

O’Neal’s expectations for the All-Star Game in Orlando and the mood of the fans with the potential trade of Dwight Howard: “All around, All-Star is going to be a great event. Orlando has come a long way since the ’92 All-Star game. It would be great if he [Dwight Howard] could put on a show and get the love and support of the fans here and get the MVP. Hopefully, he stays.  If he leaves it will be a travesty.”

O’Neal on what the Clippers’ chances are without injured point guard Chauncey Billups; if a player like Blake Griffin can be elite without being a great free-throw shooter and how he likes working with the TNT guys: “The Clippers have a great chance.  If the three guards [Foye, Paul, Williams] can settle things down and honor the possession and honor the shot clock and not play so erratically, they can go pretty far.  On the free throw thing, I personally know a guy [Shaquille O’Neal] that dominated the game and shot 50 – 52%.  It can be done.  If he dominates the game in a way and keeps everyone involved, it will get done. I love working with Charles and Ernie and all the TNT guys.”

Smith on whether or not Clippers Blake Griffin can be a dominant player:  “Blake [Griffin] can be dominant.  It comes down to the players around him elevating their game so they can take the pressure off Griffin.  It’s going to come down to other players playing well for a long time. They have a player in Paul that will make the right plays [to execute in the fourth quarter] but it’s whether or not the supporting cast can open up the lane for the other guys.”  

O’Neal on what it’s been like for him not playing and transitioning into the new phase of his life: “It really hasn’t been difficult. I prepared myself for it. I am blessed to have gotten the opportunity to get the call from TNT. Even though I am not out playing basketball, I am still around it.”

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