Sometimes we just need to be reminded of things. Sunday’s big win over the Evil Empire was a reminder that the Suns didn’t, in fact, forget how to play like a championship caliber team.
Eddie Johnson is able to give expert analysis during games because of his skill in shooting when he played. (NBAE Photos)
And perhaps a reminder that we all should have listened to Mike D’Antoni, Steve Kerr – even Shaq himself – when they said there would be some adjustments necessary to fully incorporate the Big Cactus.
I had another reminder a few nights ago as we began the 4th quarter of a home game against the 76ers. During the preceding timeout the Gorilla squad had inadvertently ripped the net off one of the hoops. There was a short delay as U.S. Airways Center engineers quickly replaced the net. Eddie Johnson immediately told Gary Bender and all the viewers watching FSN Arizona that he hated when a net had to be replaced during a game. Since the net would take a little while to get stretched out to its usual size, EJ said that the rim always looked smaller and it became a psychological detriment to any shooters on the floor. Phoenix went scoreless for the first 3 minutes and made a total of 3 FGs over the first 9 minutes of the quarter. Who else but a shooter (and were there any better?) would offer that nugget of insight? It was another example of the expert analysis Suns fans receive every night from the duo of Eddie Johnson and Dan Majerle.
Having worked in sports television for over 18 years, I’ve crossed paths with countless announcers. One thing I’ve noticed over that time is that you can learn a lot about someone by how their peers react toward them. I call it the RQ – Respect Quotient. Wherever Dan and EJ go with the Suns, they are universally respected for their knowledge of the game, the tenacious style they both brought to the court and, yes, even the fact that they are really genuine human beings. The only analyst I’ve worked with that comes close to the RQ of Dan and EJ is former Chicago Bears defensive back Doug Plank. His goes beyond respect, though. I think guys that played against Doug still avoid him as if they think he might drop them in the lobby of a hotel or stadium press box.
Dan Majerle’s “Respect Quotient” is huge even outside of Phoenix.
For television announcers, their RQ goes beyond their inner-circle of former teammates and coaches. A couple of seasons ago after a game against the Warriors, the Suns left for a Sunday afternoon game in Los Angeles. Since that game was being televised by ABC exclusively, the broadcast crew stayed the night in San Francisco and flew home the next morning. Dan, Tom Leander and I went out after the game to the Buena Vista – home of the Irish Coffee (just ask Tom if you ever run into him, he’ll tell you all about it.) On our way back to the hotel, and after a quick stop for a pizza, a black Suburban rolled up beside us at a stoplight. Both darkly-tinted driver’s side windows rolled down revealing 20-something men wearing black jackets and baseball caps – and not too friendly looks on their faces. Within 2 seconds, the driver broke into a huge grin and yelled “Thunder Dan – I love you, man!” A collective sigh of relief passed through our car and lots of high fives through theirs.
Dan and EJ connect with people – players, coaches, colleagues, viewers. Ultimately, that’s one of the biggest jobs of the television analyst. To engage the viewer and help them understand and enjoy the game they are watching more than they would have otherwise. Really great analysts (and hopefully producers and directors) will make you glad you’re watching on TV and not at the arena. And as much as I like the announcer swap we have done from time to time over the last couple of seasons, there’s not an analyst in the NBA that I’d trade for either of our guys.