NBA TV Kicks Off Preseason With Debut of Heat’s Big Three

The preseason may just be a warm-up for NBA teams around the league, but, for NBA TV, it may as well be the Finals. In addition to 85 hours of original programming and 20 live games in 17 days, NBA TV kicks off its 12th season with a self-produced telecast featuring the debut of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in a Miami uniform against the Detroit Pistons tonight.

“This year, from a production point of view, things are very similar to last year,” says Scooter Vertino, VP of content for NBA TV. “The difference is, I think we were just feeling our way through on a few shows last year and didn’t have the comfort level we have [this year]. We hope that higher comfort level will translate to higher quality.”

Heat Rising on NBA TV
The much anticipated Miami Heat preseason opener will be one of the few in-house productions this season for NBA TV. The network, which usually takes in the RSN feed of the home team for live game telecasts, will use Lyon Video Mobile Unit 10 for the production.

Calling the game will be Marv Albert, Chris Webber, and Kevin McHale, with Cheryl Miller serving as sideline reporter. Albert and Miller are on loan from fellow Turner-operated network TNT; Webber and McHale have served solely as studio analysts until now.

“It will mirror what you would see for a TNT game; that’s how we’re setting it up,” says Vertino. “I know it’s just the preseason, but it’s still the debut of [James, Wade, and Bosh] together, and we want to make this something that people will remember. It’s certainly a nice feather in our cap to be able to pull this off.”

NBA TV will follow up the Heat opener by airing at least one game every day until Oct. 20, including games from Europe, China, and Mexico. All games will be in HD, with the exception of the two telecasts from China.

A Peek Behind the Curtain
For the second consecutive year, NBA Digital and NBA TV are offering a behind-the-scenes look at NBA practices in NBA Real Training Camp. The program, which is streamed live on NBA.com and premieres on NBA TV later that evening, features a rare glimpse into NBA team practices that are usually closed to the public and media.

“The majority of NBA practices are closed,” says Vertino. “So this gives fans a peek behind the curtain and lets them see things they normally wouldn’t be able to see. I realize that [L.A. Lakers coach] Phil Jackson is not going to give away state secrets when we’re on the air, but this does give you a pretty unfiltered look at what an NBA practice is like.”

NBA TV will produce episodes of NBA Real Training Camp for the Lakers, Heat, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, and Washington Wizards. According to Vertino, the four- to five-camera, one-day productions are similar to those of real games.

“We use a regular mobile unit just like we would for a game but without some of the bells and whistles,” Vertino says. “The setup [in the truck] is pretty much identical to a real game: we’ve got our producer, director, technical director, graphics Duet machine, a few people back in tape for replays or B-roll packages, all that stuff.”

While the actual production may seem like old hat, actually obtaining a production truck for one-off shows like this during one of the mobile-production industry’s busiest times of the year has proved to be far more difficult.

“Our remote-operations people have been very challenged getting a truck for some of these practices,” says Vertino. “We’re in the middle of college football, baseball season is coming down to the wire, not to mention all the other [sports] still going on. Yes, we’d like to have some consistency [in terms of a truck], but we have to just take what we can get when we can get it at this point.”

Team Previews for All
The network will also produce half-hour team previews for all 30 NBA teams. NBA TV starts taping these on Oct. 6 with the first preview (Lakers) airing on Oct. 7.

“There’s always an inherent risk when you do a preview show to-tape,” says Vertino. “We’re 24/7, so we want to get as many rotations as possible on these shows, but you have your fingers crossed that someone big doesn’t get cut, traded, or hurt at the last minute.

“Last year, we did a Washington Wizards preview that had an interview with Antawn Jamison,” he continues. “About a week later, he sprained his shoulder and wound up missing the rest of the preseason and first few weeks of the regular season. So we had to pull that preview from rotation. You’re always holding your breath a little bit.”

In an attempt to save on costs and time, NBA TV conducted the bulk of the interviews for these previews during a single marathon session on Sept. 27, when the majority of NBA teams held their media days. The network used the Arena Link technology available at every NBA arena to connect host Craig Sager with players around the country one after another.

“Using Arena Link is very cost-effective,” says Vertino. “Craig Sager comes in and sits there all day and does interview after interview. So now we have all these interviews in the can, and, when we start taping the previews, we’ve got built-in content already there.”

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