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ESPN Gets (Semi) Serious About Basketball Coverage

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Actually, ESPN may be getting slightly less serious in its basketball coverage, which means it's getting more serious in its analysis of the NBA.

According to The Big Lead, the network's NBA Shootaround team - the ESPN equivalent (term used quite loosely) of TNT's Ernie, Jet, and Charles - is facing a shake-up.

In short: No more STEPHEN A. SMITH, Tim Legler, or Greg Anthony. (Solid Canadian broadcaster John Saunders also gets the boot by association.)

In their place: ABC's 2005-06 studio team of Dan Patrick, Mike Wilbon, and Mark Jackson.

The Big Lead says this helps signify the end of ESPN's BOO-YAH era. I slightly disagree - Stu Scott is still roaming the earth, and I guarantee if they held another season of Dream Job, half the competitors would pull out the crappy catchphrases. Most of the Sportscenter anchors still do. Stephen A. Smith was not about the BOO-YAH at all - he was just about screaming. I mean, "RASH-O NEST-AIR-O-VICH!" is not a catchphrase, it's just a loud noise. And yeah, it's probably worse than BOO-YAH, but only because it takes longer for it to be over with.

So this, with the parallel demise of Skip Bayless, more correctly signify the end of ESPN's AAAAHHH! LOUD NOISES!!! era. For that I'm very thankful. I hope Woody Paige and at least 80 percent of "Around the Horn" follows. (Full disclosure: I haven't watched "AtH" in at least nine months, and I watched "Cold Pizza"/"First and 10" maybe three times before deciding I couldn't let myself vomit up that much blood so early in the day. So maybe something miraculous has happened and the show's have become watchable. If that's the case, I apologize.)

On the other side: Patrick, Wilbon, and Jackson are not the perfect team. I love Dan Patrick - at this point, he brings a certain gravitas to anything he covers. Wilbon is fantastic of course, and he's the closest thing to a personality expert ESPN will ever get to dissect the personality-driven NBA. I was mostly indifferent to Jackson last season - I like the idea of a calmer, smart ex-player, but he needs to dial up the charisma to keep people paying attention. I really enjoyed the Sunday they had Method Man on with them, so that tells me they could use one more "personality" guy to keep things moving. Is Karl Malone busy? He'd be perfect for something like this.

Anyways, it's a net gain for basketball fans. I look forward to NBA Shootaround. Now if they could only do something about NBA Tonight...

(Via True Hoop.)