Of all the rough nights and bad performances that can be part of a tough NBA playoff series between the OKC Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs, it’s hard for me to find anyone stinking it up worse than the game announcers and post-game crew at TNT.
You could say they are ‘Shaqtin A Fool.’
I wasn’t all that concerned by the drubbing the Spurs dealt the Thunder in game one. After the game, I yawned at the mild roasting from TNT’s Inside the NBA. None of it particularly got to me. Nope. What’s bothered me is how the TNT talking heads have handled both Thunder victories, as well as the way they’ve handled Kevin Durant’s impending free agency.
So far, the network’s narrative has implied that the game-two win was a fluke and that the Thunder didn’t deserve to win. Then, when the Thunder got down a little in game four, Marv Albert wet himself over the possibility that Durant was playing his last game in Oklahoma City.
When the Thunder won with a convincing fourth quarter, the post-game crew at Inside the NBA spent the next 10 minutes talking about how the Thunder stars still do not trust each other and their teammates — and how they could be an elite team if they did.
In all honesty, this coverage and analysis is beginning to show patterns. Each time the Thunder exceed expectations and blow holes in the narrative that OKC doesn’t have the basketball IQ to play with the Spurs or the Golden State Warriors, the pundits defend their long-held positions by attacking Russell Westbrook, Durant, and the organization in general.
When the Thunder pulled off a dramatic game-two win in San Antonio — a place the Spurs had only lost once during the regular season — it was marred by an uncalled series of now infamous fouls. The NBA copped to five missed calls in the final 13 seconds, three committed by the Spurs and two committed by the Thunder. Yet, despite the fact that the Spurs committed at least two violations before the elbow of doom by Dion Waiters, in-game color commentator Chris Webber went into hysterics about how the refs blew the call, and the game.
Part of me finds humor in the notion that Webber is simply insecure about his own crunch-time playmaking (Kenny Smith sees you trying to call that timeout, Chris), and he couldn’t help but overreact. But that doesn’t excuse his lack of professionalism, and it doesn’t excuse his attitude about it either. “I am very happy about it,” he told reporters.
It took nearly 24 hours for the NBA to correct its official record by admitting the blown calls, but the damage had been done. Webber’s rant had set the tone, and the rest of the TNT crew had already spent the night obsessing about it. Former player and Inside the NBA personality Kenny Smith even said immediately post game that he wanted a review of the game.
“I think they should call the technical and replay the last 15 minutes,” he said. “When I played at Riverside Church, we protested a game and won a protest. I would protest that game. That’s a protestable game.”
Joking or not, it’s an idiotic thing for a professional basketball analyst to say, even if we don’t expect television talking heads to be perfect, impartial journalists. Frankly, it’s stupid to expect TV personalities to be totally objective, as they get paid to predict and pontificate. They’re married to their opinions.
But here’s the thing, we should expect analysts to be good at their craft, provide meaningful insights and, not lose their heads or sense of professionalism over a missed call that turned out to be fairly inconsequential. A broadcasting legend (of dubious distinction), Marv Albert should know better than to troll a team’s fans during a tight game.
“We could be witnessing Kevin Durant’s last game in Oklahoma City,” Albert said.
As if Durant’s mother was on hand to help him pack.
There’s no need to sensationalize such a terrific NBA playoff series. Trying to do so should land TNT on “Shaqtin a Fool.”