For NBA Draft Coverage, ESPN Expands Focus to Free Agency

This Thursday’s NBA Draft does not have the star power of previous drafts, so ESPN is adapting its coverage to integrate the meatier stories of free agency as well. With an expanded talent roster that includes a “capologist” as well as HD videoconferencing from 13 team headquarters, ESPN is prepared to tell the free-agency story alongside the drafting of new players.

“I think, this year, there are a lot of different things going on with the Draft,” says Pat Lowry, coordinating producer for ESPN. “We’ve got some pretty significant players with the first four or five picks, and then maybe it’s not as significant. But you also have this year being big for free agency, so we’re going to try, from a content perspective, to tie in some of the free agency as well as information on the players.”

Inside the Theater at Madison Square Garden, ESPN will deploy 14 cameras, two more than last year. The additional angles will showcase the crowd in the audience to try to provide a feel for the emotions in the theater.

Delivered in HD for the first time, videoconferencing from Glowpoint will provide immediate access to personnel in team headquarters in Boston; Chicago; Dallas; Los Angeles Lakers; Miami; Memphis; Minnesota; New Jersey; Oklahoma City; Orlando; Philadelphia; Portland, OR, and Washington, DC. A “Draft Cam” in the draft rooms at Washington, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Philadelphia will further the behind-the-scenes access.

“The signal is being sent from each location via two T-1 lines,” Lowry explains. “The HD conferencing is a higher quality than in past years, and video and audio stays in sync better.  The access this provides us with each team gives us immediate reaction from the decision makers on how a player fits into their system.”

In addition, ESPN will have two uplink locations in Cleveland and New York, so aside from the 14 cameras at Madison Square Garden, ESPN has 15 additional cameras in remote locations. Bob Holtzman will be on-site in Cleveland to provide news from the Cavaliers camp, including the latest updates on LeBron James and the team’s coaching search. Rachel Nichols will provide similar relevant updates from New York.

For the first time, the network will have a “capologist” in Tom Penn, former VP of basketball operations for the Portland Trail Blazers, to explain and analyze salary-cap space for teams heading into the free-agency period.

Some pre-produced behind-the-scenes segments, including a sports-science piece featuring John Wall, will add some color to the coverage, as will stylized bumps and teases that are all new for 2010. Singer Michael Bublé voiced the teases, and his music will be used as a soundtrack to tie the elements together.

“We’re still doing our graphics matrix, polling, and all of the other information you’ve seen in the past,” Lowry adds. “When you’re watching in HD, you’ll have a right-hand panel that will have much more information coming through than what you would see watching in standard definition.”

As ESPN has done in the past, that right-hand panel, always visible for viewers watching in HD, will provide picks, trades, team-by-team summaries, player stats, real-time interactive polling, team needs, Jay Bilas’s “Best Available” prospects, and top international prospects, among other elements.

The NBA Draft will also be available through a live simulcast on ESPN3.com and ESPN Mobile TV.

ESPN’s coverage of the Draft tips off at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday June 24 from New York’s Theater at Madison Square Garden.

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