With just six players to their roster following the NBA's cancellation of the latest Chris Paul trade, the New Orleans Hornets have a lot of hiring to do before the NBA season tips off on Dec. 25. Apparently ABC/ESPN is facing the same personnel worries, because it's going to ask lead announcing duo Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy to call two games for the network on Christmas Day.
Breen and Van Gundy will begin their afternoon in Dallas, calling a Finals rematch between the Mavericks and the Miami Heat, which tips off at 2:30 p.m. ET. Nationally televised games usually wind down a little after three hours later, so the pair will have approximately five hours to decamp in Dallas, head to what we're guessing is a private jet (way to go green, Disney) in anticipation of holiday delays, and get to Oakland for the 10:30 p.m. ET contest featuring the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers.
As a gimmick, if it's only a gimmick, it's cute. The NBA will be showcasing five games on Christmas, all four of them on ABC/ESPN, which means four sets of broadcasting crews and a bit of a pain in the tail, so you can understand wanting to showcase what you deem to be your best crew at both the biggest box office draw (the Heat/Mavericks re-match) and the possible showdown between two teams of the future (the Clippers/Warriors fun). The latter game will also feature a reunion of sorts, with Breen and Van Gundy's former broadcasting partner Mark Jackson taking over duties as Warriors coach.
But if the duo are hitting the friendly skies, needlessly, just for another goofy reason to allow viewers to take their mind off the NBA's five-month lockout? Then this is as pointless as the lockout apparently was.
Presumably ABC/ESPN has what I consider to be extremely sound talent in Dan Shulman, Hubie Brown, Mike Tirico and Doris Burke calling other games. It hopefully will be adding the great Kevin Calabro, as ESPN often does, to one of the contests. But if the company is lacking for a fifth set of voices, well, there's an absolute embarrassment of riches of local announcers to tap into, with too many great ones to name. For a one-off, even.
These people are professionals, and they have two weeks to acclimate to the Disney way. I think there is enough time to set up a sound fifth option, and certainly enough to prevent Breen and Van Gundy from having to dash across two time zones for a story you'll forget by the morning of the 26th.
ABC/ESPN made a sound move in deciding to showcase the Warriors and Clippers. Now it's time to give another previously local a chance to ascend to its big-league rotation.
(And also because we'll be sick of "I'm grumpy from flying and working all day" jokes from Jeff Van Gundy by the second quarter.)