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2 posts from August 15, 2013

August 15, 2013

Wade addresses Heat future and knees; Friday media column: New network launching

With each member of the Heat’s Big Three holding opt-out clauses next summer, Dwyane Wade said Thursday night that it will not be an issue for him because he plans to stay with the Heat long-term.

“Everybody knows where I want to be. I want to be in Miami,” he said at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, at an event to kick off his annual basketball fantasy camp. “I have nothing to talk about [regarding 2014 opt-outs]. So there won’t be any exciting news over here.”

LeBron James said in June that his hope would be to continue playing with Wade and Chris Bosh long-term in Miami but stopped short of saying he definitely would stay with the Heat beyond next summer. Bosh said during the playoffs that he wants to stay with the Heat long-term.

Wade said he will answer questions about 2014 free agency on Heat media day in late September “and that will be the last time I address it.” He said the priority must be to “make sure we focus on this season and winning the championship.”

Meanwhile, Wade said his knees – which caused him discomfort during the playoffs – have improved considerably but are not 100 percent.

“They’re feeling a lot, lot better,” he said. “I’m not at great yet. Now I have to work at the strengthening part of it. I still have time before the season. By the time the season [starts], I’ll be as good as I’ve been.”

Wade said he underwent a treatment, OssaTron, that he hadn’t used since 2007. The procedure --- a non-surgical shock wave therapy --- relieves tendinitis and was the same treatment that Heat forward Rashard Lewis, among others, have used in recent years.

Wade said he needed to take a month off after receiving the treatment, and “this weekend will be a month to the day. I can start working out now.”

Wade said the offseason has been “great. Winning a championship, going into the offseason makes it a lot easier. But it’s been a short one. You get back to the point now where you have to start getting back into the mode of getting ready for the season.

“I took enough time off. This weekend is my first weekend of getting back into basketball mindset and trying to focus on it.”

Wade was pleased with the Heat’s addition of center Greg Oden, who hasn’t played since December 2009 because of knee injuries.

“I think it’s great,” Wade said. “Greg has done a good job of trying to get his body back. He’s 25. He wants to play the game at a high level like we know he’s capable of. He’s been snakebitten a little bit. He’s done a good job of taking time off and trying to get healthy.

“He’s come to the right place. They will do everything in their power to make sure he is able to be on the court and be effective. Hopefully, he doesn’t rush it. We take him step by step. He can be one of those Shane Battier, Ray Allen summers. We sign a guy – Birdman as well – that a lot of people weren’t really looking at to be a big part of something. And he could become a big part of what we’re trying to do.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, Indiana coach Tom Crean (Wade’s friend and former coach at Marquette) and Hall of Famer Rick Barry are among those working at Wade’s camp this weekend.

“We’re selling a fantasy,” Wade said. “A lot of guys love the game of basketball. This gives guys an opportunity to relive those moments and build relationships. It’s one of the fun things I do.”


Media column: New network launches Saturday; late-night TV about to get interesting


Though America is hardly clamoring for another all-sports network, we’re getting one anyway, when Fox transforms Speed into a multisport channel dubbed Fox Sports 1 at 6 a.m. Saturday.

The Fox Sports 1 menu includes college football (including Big 12 and Pac 12 games), college basketball (those conferences, the Big East and others), Saturday MLB games starting in 2014, a daily NASCAR show at 4:30 and Sprint Cup races in 2015, a weeknight NFL show at 6 p.m., UFC matches, soccer (a daily show at 4 p.m. and the UEFA Champions League, plus other matches), high school football, and Crowd Goes Wild, which is a 5 p.m. roundtable discussion show hosted by Regis Philbin, of all people.

"It's no secret -- we're a huge underdog in this race," Fox Sports COO Eric Shanks said of the competition with ESPN.

But the most intriguing subplot here is that late-night sports television is about to become far more competitive.

In recent years, among live sports studio shows, SportsCenter’s only serious competition at 11 p.m. were similar niche shows on NFL Network, MLB Network and NBA TV. That’s about to change.

Beginning Aug. 26, Keith Olbermann likely will lure some viewers from SportsCenter with his new ESPN2 studio show from 11 p.m. to midnight.

And beginning Monday, Fox Sports 1 hopes to do the same with Fox Sports Live, a nightly three-hour marathon (11 p.m. – 2 a.m.) with highlights narrated by popular Canadian sportscasters Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, as well as a nightly roundtable discussion, moderated by ESPN defector Charissa Thompson, that will feature former tennis star Andy Roddick, former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, ex-NBA star Gary Payton and former NFL offensive lineman Ephraim Salaam.

Fox Sports executive vice president Scott Ackerson said: “I don’t know if Keith would have been back [at ESPN] if Fox Sports Live and Fox Sports 1 didn’t exist.”

In some ways, Fox Sports Live sounds suspiciously like the late, not-so-great Best Damn Sports Show Period, a Fox cable incarnation that was too sophomoric and inane to survive long-term.

“Best Damn took a lot of liberties with being irreverent,” Shanks said. “We’re not going to be scripting comedy with this show.”

Said Ackerson: “I don’t want to sound like we’re going to have a clownfest.”

Fox is gambling that people will care what Roddick, McNabb, Payton and Salaam have to say about all sports, not just those they played.

“They want to hear me talk about basketball,” McNabb insisted on a recent conference call. “They want to hear our insights on [other] sports.”

Not so sure about that, Donovan. If they’re informed, intelligent and entertaining opinions, perhaps.

But Fox realistically needs to do something different that SportsCenter to have any chance of attracting an audience. Whether this is the right approach – or the right cast – remains to be seen.

“There is an appetite for a show that has a consistent cast of people giving opinion and insight, as well as highlights,” Shanks said. “We want to add spontaneity to sports television.”

### All major cable and satellite providers will carry Fox Sports 1, including Comcast and DirecTV.

### Fox grabbed U.S. Open golf rights away from NBC and ESPN beginning in 2015, and early round coverage will air on Fox Sports 1.

### Far more under-the-radar than Fox Sports 1’s launch: Fox will rebrand Fuel Channel as Fox Sports 2 beginning on Saturday, with UFC heavily featured.


While we’re on the topic of late-night television, a few thoughts about ESPN’s 11 p.m. and late night editions of SportsCenter, which set a lofty standard for highlights show but nevertheless irritate us in some regards. Among SportsCenter’s few missteps:

### Sometimes prioritizing analysis over news. SportsCenter viewers often are forced to wait longer than they should for NFL, MLB and NBA highlights because ESPN feels obligated to trot out its analysts – a Rambis here, a Kruk there, a Legler over here – to explain what we just saw, even though no explanation is usually necessary.

The most egregious examples this year: 1) In January, on a day NFL coaches were hired and Lance Armstrong admitted doping, ESPN – before reporting any of that - devoted five minutes to college basketball analysis with Seth Greenberg and Jay Williams. Where’s the news judgment in that? 2) Last week, ESPN had multiple analysts opine on Alex Rodriguez’s suspension, shedding little new light on the subject, before revealing names of any of the other suspended players.

### Excessive coverage of legitimate or manufactured stories, such as Tim Tebow, the season-long obsession with the Lakers and Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday, which became a tiresome multipart series. And already, ESPN has begun unsubstantiated speculation on the Lakers’ chances of landing LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony next summer.

Last year, ESPN president John Skipper told his producers to curtail Tebow coverage and said it wasn’t the first time he felt the network was giving too much attention to a story.

“We’ve created an internal group to look at SportsCenter to balance the issue of hitting stories and staying on them” without overdoing it, Skipper said during a visit to South Florida earlier this year.

“The average person watches 20 minutes. We are ultimately in the business of trying to drive viewership to sell ads. But we are cognizant of not wanting to beat a story to death.”

### This likely has happened to most viewers: You’re waiting for a story that should be coming up shortly – according to ESPN’s on-screen graphic -- only to see it move down the rundown or disappear altogether. Exasperating.

By the end of August, SportsCenter will face more legitimate competition than it ever has. At the very least, it should be interesting to test-drive the new options. Ultimately, Olbermann could end up siphoning more viewers from SportsCenter than Fox Sports Live does.