TNT announced plans Tuesday to open its 2011-12 NBA regular-season broadcast schedule Nov. 1 with a double-header featuring the defending champion Dallas Mavericks playing the Chicago Bulls, and the L.A. Lakers playing the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The network also trumpeted the fact that often-easygoing -- but sometimes not so much -- former NBA big man Shaquille O'Neal will be adding to the delicate chemistry of the popular Charles Barkley, Kenny "The Jet" Smith and Ernie Johnson in the "NBA on TNT" studio in Atlanta.
But don't look for any of it to happen Nov. 1.
Unlike the National Football League, which appears close to bridging what had been all along a fairly narrow collective bargaining chasm between players and owners, the NBA appears nowhere near close to ending its player lockout in time for the start of the regular season.
NBA owners locked out their players July 1, and there have been no negotiations since that time.
The forces of brinksmanship should bring both sides back to the bargaining table right before team training camps are set to open in the fall. But with league owners trying to bring way down the revenue share of the players -- currently at around 57 percent -- there's a lot to figure out.
Could the NBA lose an entire season? Well, the owners are being egged on by their National Hockey League brethren, who are telling them it was financially worth it for them when they drew a hard line with their players and lost the 2004-05 NHL season. (Although, if you look at the hit TV ratings for pro hockey took at that time, you might second-guess that notion.)
Meanwhile, top NBA players are now openly pondering playing overseas.
In any event, the games will be back at some point (won't they?), and Shaq will be in the studio for TNT's pregame, halftime and postgame coverage when they do.
The Emmy-winning "NBA on TNT" has been one of the most successful sports-TV blends of ex-jock banter and analysis over the last decade, with Johnson, Smith and Barkley humorously busting each other's chops as they break down the games.
O'Neal, over a 19-year sure-to-be Hall of Fame playing career, certainly showed a playful, creative side with the media, dishing out quips while thinking up playful nicknames for himself and his peers. In fact, Shaq could, off the cuff, throw out a moniker for a peer one time in a postgame interview, and it would stick for decades -- like when he called Vince Carter "Half Man, Half Amazing" or when he referred to Tim Duncan as "The Big Fundemental."
He also showed a dark side and a tendency to take himself pretty seriously, trashing former teammates and coaches on numerous occasions when he left a team, and sometimes when he was still there.
Casual fans know all about his feud with Lakers star Kobe Bryant when he was in L.A., but he has plenty of other falling-outs on record.
How will Shaq take it, for example, when his head is Photoshopped by the "NBA on TNT" production minions onto some goofy body, in the name of in-studio comedy -- a plight the good-natured Barkley has endured countless times?
Will he show the same deft ability as Barkley to come close to the line -- but not cross it -- when Sir Charles inevitably brings up the fight the pair had has players, one in which, as Barkley frequenly boasts, he got the best of?
Well, we shall see ... but not on Nov. 1, as scheduled.
Here's the full TNT press release:
TNT’s 2011-12 NBA Schedule
Four-time NBA Champion Shaquille O'Neal Joins Emmy Award-winning ‘Inside the NBA’ Studio Team of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley
TNT is the Exclusive home of 2012 NBA All-Star Game from Orlando
TNT today announced its 2011-12 NBA regular season schedule, which features 10 scheduled appearances each by the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks and perennial contenders the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers, as well as nine by the defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. Fifteen of the 16 playoff teams from last year, along with eight scheduled appearances each for the New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic also highlight the 23rdconsecutive year of NBA coverage on TNT. The network is scheduled to air 52 games in primetime, with 44 being part of TNT’s Thursday night exclusive doubleheaders. This marks TNT’s 28th season of NBA basketball coverage.
The NBA on TNT’s marquee roster of NBA announcers includes the studio team featuring two-time Emmy® Award-winning hostErnie Johnson, two-time NBA champion Kenny Smith, four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, along with select studio appearances by five-time NBA All-Star Chris Webber. On-site game announcers include: Marv Albert (play-by-play), Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), five-time NBA champion Steve Kerr (analyst), Reggie Miller (analyst), Mike Fratello (analyst), David Aldridge (reporter), Cheryl Miller (reporter) and Craig Sager (reporter).
TNT’s regular season coverage is set to begin Tuesday, Nov. 1, with a special half-hour preview show, TNT NBA Tip-Off ’11 presented by AutoTrader.com at 7 p.m. (ET), followed at 8 p.m. (ET) with an exclusive opening night doubleheader. The first game will feature the defending NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks hosting the Chicago Bulls. The Mavericks will be presented with their championship rings in pregame ceremonies prior to taking on the Bulls. The second game of the night will feature theOklahoma City Thunder against the perennial contending L.A. Lakers at 10:30 p.m. (ET). Opening week continues on TNT onThursday, Nov. 3, with the night’s first game featuring Orlando traveling south to Miami at 8 p.m. ET followed by Portlandplaying host to Denver in the second game of the doubleheader at 10:30 p.m.
In addition to the doubleheader on opening night, TNT’s schedule features a number of marquee match-ups, including:
>> Nov. 17, 2011 – A big night of basketball is in store as the Boston Celtics travel to Orlando for game one of the night against the Magic (8 p.m. ET), followed by the New York Knicks at the Staples Center matching up against the L.A. Lakers in this early-season showdown (10:30 p.m. ET).
>> Dec. 1, 2011 – The defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat travel to Beantown to battle their Eastern Conference rival the Boston Celtics (8 p.m. ET).
>> Dec. 8, 2011 – TNT’s first game of the night will feature the L.A. Lakers against the Miami Heat (8 p.m. ET).
>> Dec. 15, 2011 – The Philadelphia 76ers travel to Madison Square Garden to play the New York Knicks (7 p.m. ET) and Western Conference heavyweights the Dallas Mavericks meet the L.A. Lakers in game two of the night (9:30 p.m.)
>> Jan. 16, 2012 – This MLK Day doubleheader showcases the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Boston Celtics (8 p.m. ET) and the Dallas Mavericks traveling to play the L.A. Lakers (10:30 p.m. ET).
>> Feb. 2, 2012 – Old rivalries are renewed in this game between the Chicago Bulls at New York Knicks (8 p.m.).
>> Feb. 23, 2012 – In the final game leading into the NBA All-Star Weekend and TNT’s exclusive coverage, the New York Knicks travel to South Beach and take on the Miami Heat (8 p.m.) and the Denver Nuggets play host to the San Antonio Spurs (10:30 pm. ET).
>> Mar. 8, 2012 – The L.A. Lakers stop in Chicago to take on the Bulls (8 p.m.), while Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggetsround out the evening with an All-Western Conference nightcap (10:30 p.m. ET).
>> Mar. 29, 2012 – The Dallas Mavericks return to Miami for a rematch of the 2011 NBA Finals with the Heat (8 p.m. ET)
>> April 17, 2012 – In TNT’s final doubleheader before the start of the playoffs, the Boston Celtics head to New York to play theKnicks (8 p.m. ET) and the San Antonio Spurs travel to the L.A. Lakers in TNT’s second game of the night.
TNT once again will serve as the exclusive home for NBA All-Star 2012 and is slated to air all the action on NBA All-Star Friday, NBA All-Star Saturday and the 2012 NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 26, from Orlando. The network also will air 40 or more NBA playoff games including, on an exclusive basis, conference semi-finals and the Western Conference Finals.
TNT is in its 23rd consecutive year of NBA coverage. Sister network TBS aired the NBA exclusively for Turner Broadcasting System from 1984-89, with TNT serving as Turner’s sole NBA cable home from 1990-94. Both networks aired NBA games from 1994-2002. Once again, TNT’s entire NBA preseason, regular and postseason telecasts will air in high definition.
Turner Sports, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., presents some of the best and most popular sporting events worldwide and is a leader in televised and online sports programming. With events airing on TBS, TNT and truTV, Turner Sports’ line-up includes NASCAR and NASCAR.COM, the NBA, Major League Baseball, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, professional golf, PGATOUR.COM and PGA.com. Turner Sports’ diverse portfolio also offers a collection of mobile Web sites and apps featuring NBA, NASCAR and professional golf content, along with Turner Sports’ first branded consumer product, SportsNOW. Turner Sports and the NBA also jointly manage NBA Digital, which includes NBA TV, NBA.com, NBA LEAGUE PASS, NBA LEAGUE PASS Broadband, NBA Mobile, NBADLEAUGE.com and WNBA.com.
TNT’s 52-game schedule is listed below. All times shown are Eastern.
TNT 2011-2012 NBA REGULAR SEASON TELECAST SCHEDULE
TNT NBA Tip-Off ‘11 presented by Autotrader.com
Chicago Bulls @ Dallas Mavericks
Oklahoma City Thunder @ L.A. Lakers
*********************************NBA ALL-STAR 2011*************************************************
NBA Rookie Challenge
NBA All-Star Saturday
2011 NBA All-Star Game from Orlando
Boston - 10
Golden State - 4
Dallas - 10
San Antonio - 4
L.A. Lakers - 10
Philadelphia - 2
Chicago - 9
Phoenix - 2
Miami - 9
Atlanta - 1
New York - 8
Memphis - 1
Oklahoma City - 8
New Orleans - 1
Orlando - 8
Sacramento - 1
Denver - 5
Utah - 1
Portland - 5
L.A. Clippers - 5