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Jeff Van Gundy: ‘NBA Games Should Be Shortened To 2 Hour TV Window’

“He suggests modifying rules, such as the length of halftime and instituting a statute of limitations on challenges, to ensure the game remains enthralling and entertaining for future generations.”

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ESPN enters its 20th season of NBA coverage with cross-platform coverage leading up to a prime-time matchup from Madison Square Garden with Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics visiting Julius Randle and the New York Knicks. ESPN Play-by-Play Announcer and “voice of the NBA Finals” Mike Breen will be on the call, joined by sideline reporter Lisa Salters and analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy. Jackson, who most recently served as head coach of the Golden State Warriors after a 17-year playing career, looked back on how far the broadcast has come since he first joined it in 2006.

“It [has] progressed with the variety of people [who] are covering the game,” said Jackson on a recent conference call. “Across the board, they’ve done an outstanding job of not making us all look and sound alike. I’m honored to be a part of that group.”

An issue prevalent in many sports, most notably Major League Baseball, pertains to pace-of-play. In an attempt to shorten “America’s Pastime” to attract and hold the attention of younger audiences, the introduction of new rules, such as limitations on mound visits, clocks to regulate time in-between innings, and restrictions on when the batter can step out of the box during an at-bat, have had the adverse effect. The average MLB contest lasts three hours and 11 minutes, the highest mark recorded since consistent measurement began in 1946.

While a regulation, four-quarter NBA game is significantly quicker than an MLB contest, Van Gundy, a former coach of 11 years, hopes the league can shorten the game even more to adapt to today’s viewing audience that holds an average attention span of just eight seconds, shorter than that of a goldfish. He suggests modifying rules, such as the length of halftime and instituting a statute of limitations on challenges, to ensure the game remains enthralling and entertaining for future generations.

“I’d love to see the game shortened into a two-hour window,” said Van Gundy. “I think we need to keep finding ways to reduce stoppages of play from timeouts. I would either shorten or greatly modify halftime. I think [the league has] to constantly look for ways to shorten the viewing window and have as much action in that two-hour timeframe as [it] can.”

With ESPN recently launching the “Manningcast,” an alternate, non-traditional broadcast of Monday Night Football featuring former NFL quarterbacks, Super Bowl champions and brothers Eli and Peyton Manning, the world of sports media has undoubtedly taken notice. The broadcast has a similar feel to friends hanging out and watching a football game, except these friends just so happen to have played and reached the pinnacle of professional football, offering unique perspectives and viewpoints shattering the fourth wall between the athletes and the fans. While the NBA on ESPN has yet to do a broadcast at that scale with regularity, it is something that the network analysts are taking notice of.

“When you’re dealing with one of the greatest to ever play the game in Peyton, and a hall-of-famer in Eli, both guys do an incredible job,” said Jackson. “I think it gives an opportunity for viewers who want to see that type of broadcast. I don’t even know how many channels [ESPN has, but] it’s always going to be something against what we are doing… I have no problem with it at all.”

If ESPN decided to produce a non-traditional, alternate broadcast, Van Gundy offered an idea to close out his broadcasting career where the fans would be given the unfiltered perspective of those who have been on the court.

“I want to do one game, NBA on ESPN: The Entire Truth,” opined Van Gundy. “[We would] be able to tell the entire truth — not 90% of it, not 80% of it, but the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I think that would be an outstanding, one-time broadcast as I sign off and finish my career.”

While Jackson and Van Gundy do not cover the NFL, they have not had their heads in the sand. They were asked about the emails from Jon Gruden leaked during an investigation into the culture of the Washington Football Team. Both hold concerns regarding similar issues that may have already occurred or could occur in the future within the NBA, a league that protested racial injustice last summer when playoff games were postponed and nearly cancelled following the shooting of Jacob Blake.

“It’s unfortunate, and I totally agree with the price that Jon Gruden had to pay for the things that he stated,” said Jackson. “My concern is I truly do not believe it is just a Jon Gruden story. There’s more to it, and there’s people being protected. We have to find a way to weave those people out… [and] hopefully we can get better across the board.”

Van Gundy holds an analogous sentiment with Jackson, and has lost trust in the NFL’s stand against injustice and willingness to do whatever it takes to directly avoid bad publicity

“The NFL has always found ways to protect itself from these things, and to deflect their responsibility,” affirmed Van Gundy. “They’ll give you a lot of clichés about transparency; yet, they are always covering and protecting their own. My level of trust for their investigations is nil.”

Aside from the trio of Breen, Jackson and Van Gundy, ESPN’s lineup of on-air personalities and commentators, the latter of whom all plan to appear on-site this season, includes analysts Doris Burke, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter and play-by-play voices Ryan Ruocco, Mark Jones, Dave Pasch, Brian Custer and Beth Mowins. Additionally, sideline reporters for this season of the N.B.A. on ESPN include Malika Andrews, Katie George, Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, Cassidy Hubbarth, Lisa Salters and Jorge Sedano. One name, though, that has been within the N.B.A. landscape longer than any of ESPN’s rotation of broadcasters is Naismith Basketball Hall-of-Famer Hubie Brown, who starts his 50th season in the league between coaching and broadcasting.

Jeff Van Gundy, who ESPN recently inked to a multi-year contract extension, does not think his career will have the longevity of Brown’s, but is grateful for the time he has spent with the network thus far, and looks forward to the future of what he calls his “second career.”

“There has to be an award named for [Hubie Brown] somewhere. He’s 88 — that would take me to 2050. I can’t even imagine that,” said Van Gundy. “The upper management of ESPN has changed a lot, but my direct boss in Tim Corrigan has never changed. Broadcasting is good, but broadcasting with friends is great…  I’ve enjoyed it particularly because of who I work for and who I work with. I can’t state how lucky I’ve been along the way to have coached as long as I did and to stumble into a second career.”

ESPN’s 20th season of NBA coverage kicks off Wednesday night with the prime-time matchup between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Sports TV News

ESPN Will Honor Vin Scully By Airing Iconic 1988 World Series Game 1 Tonight

ESPN will air an encore presentation of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series as a tribute to Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scull

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Vin Scully

ESPN will air an encore presentation of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series as a tribute to Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully. The network will air the game tonight, August 3 at 8pm ET on ESPN2.

The 1988 World Series was between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics. Scully was on the call for the classic game which is notable for an injured Kirk Gibson coming off the bench and hitting a walk-off home run.

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Sports TV News

Matthew Berry Joins NBC Sports

Berry is expected to host a daily podcast and have his own Sunday fantasy football show.

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Matthew Berry

Matthew Berry, the fantasy football expert that helped to elevate the niche to mainstay programming surrounding the football season, is joining NBC Sports.

Berry, who left ESPN less than a month ago, is expected to host a daily podcast and have his own Sunday fantasy football show, sources told The New York Post. The show might go against Fantasy Football Now, his previous show that airs on ESPN2.

The show is also expected to be on NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, as well as possibly on some NBC affiliates. Berry could also make appearances on Sunday Night Football.

NBC Sports declined comment.

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Sports TV News

NBC Pushing for Big Ten/NFL Primetime Pairing in Media Rights Deal

“The Big Ten would have exposure in every TV home,” said one source to Front Office Sports. “It would also be a smart idea to follow the model of the most successful sports league in America.” 

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Big Ten media rights negotiations are getting closer to being completed. The results could mean a minimum of $1.25 billion annual distribution for the conference’s soon-to-be sixteen members. One of the bidders in the process, NBC, has an interesting idea to make the Big Ten the “NFL of college football conferences.”

NBC has reportedly pushed the idea of combining Big Ten broadcasts with its existing Notre Dame coverage and would feature the Big Ten in its primetime window. With CBS, ESPN/ABC also bidding on coverage packages, such a series of deals would make the Big Ten the only college football conference that would be seen across all of the American broadcast networks. Something only few entities have done, like the NFL.

NBC is also pushing the allure of having primetime Big Ten football on Saturday night and primetime coverage of Sunday’s only NFL evening game with Sunday Night Football.

“The Big Ten would have exposure in every TV home,” said one source to Front Office Sports. “It would also be a smart idea to follow the model of the most successful sports league in America.” 

The Big Ten’s current media rights deals expire after the 2023 season.

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