TNT's 'Players Only' broadcasts are dumpster fires


From this point going forward, any play-by-play man who finds himself in Gerry Callahan’s crosshairs should pop in a tape of TNT’s “Players Only” telecast. Nothing has ever illustrated the value of a person telling us what we can all see more than this broadcasting monstrosity.

Viewers to the Celtics-Warriors Tuesday night showdown were subjected to another “Players Only” telecast, which TNT is running out with increasing regularity. The network’s legendary studio show is also without Ernie Johnson on these nights, leaving Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Baron Davis and Candace Parker to talk over themselves without any direction.

The highlight of “Players Only” came last month, when Kevin McHale accidentally called somebody a “d—head” on a hot mic during Celtics-Sixers. McHale was on the call Tuesday, but there weren’t even moments of unintentional comedy. It was just a mess from beginning to end.

The most important job for TV play-by-play people isn’t calling the action, but setting the scene and putting their analyst(s) in position to provide cogent insight. Without Marv Albert or Kevin Harlan distributing talking points and questions, however, the broadcast is discombobulated.

While Greg Anthony is passable as a play-by-play voice, his voice lacks inflection and he fails to push forward any sort of narrative. He’s just … talking, with no apparent feel for how to adjust his commentary to coincide with the action on the court.

It’s understandable why TNT would want to try out the “Players Only” format, given the widespread popularity of the critically acclaimed “Inside the NBA” with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaq. But that program also features Johnson directing traffic. He keeps everything on the proverbial rails.

Also, none of those three analysts are featured on the “Players Only” telecasts. Perhaps people would enjoy Barkley and Smith riffing during a Tuesday night contest. But Grant Hill, Isiah Thomas and Brent Barry don’t carry the same allure. 

Here’s hoping TNT retires this failed experiment prior to the postseason. Sports fans have never craved for fake yuckers more.