TNT talks up NBA All-Star Game and NBA 1st half

From TNT Sports –

Notes from the 2012 Turner Sports NBA All-Star ConferenceCall – Feb. 14, 2012
On Thursday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. (ET), NBA TVwill broadcast the BBVA Rising StarsChallenge Draft during GameTimewith TNT’s Kenny Smith serving as the honorary Commissioner and ErnieJohnson hosting the live show.  TNT analysts Charles Barkley and ShaquilleO’Neal will serve as the general managers of the two opposing teams -TEAM CHUCK and TEAM SHAQ.  Each team will have a nine man roster, draftedfrom the rookie and sophomore player pool.
TNT and NBATV will bein Orlando forlive exclusive coverage of NBA All-Star 2012
on February 24-26.
On Friday, Feb. 24, TNT will present the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge at 9 p.m. (ET). Beginning at 8 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, February 25, TNT will have exclusive livecoverage of NBA All-Star Saturday Nightpresented by State Farm. TNT’s exclusive presentation of the NBA All-Star Game presented by Kia Motorswill tip off at 7:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, February 26.
During NBA All-Star 2012,NBA TV will deliver fans more than 95 hours of dedicated All-Star programmingincluding a special NBA GameTime: All-Star Sunday (4 p.m. ET), followed by livecoverage of the Sprint Pre-Game Concert at NBA All-Star (5 p.m. ET). Throughout All-Star, NBA TV’s marquee roster of talent, includingShaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Steve Smith, Dennis Scott and BrentBarry, will be on site in Orlandoproviding fans with updates on NBA TV and via Twitter.
This is the 27th yearTurner Sports has featured NBA All-Star coverage, and the 10th consecutive yearthe NBA All-Star Game will be televised in prime time on TNT.
Shaquille O’Neal – TNT/NBATV Analyst
Steve Kerr – TNTAnalyst
Steve Smith – NBA TVAnalyst
Jeff Behnke – SVP andExecutive Producer, Turner Sports
Kerr onthe most surprising team and player this season: “This is really a bizarre season.Maybe the biggest surprise, and that has gone under the radar, is the play ofthe [San Antonio]Spurs. I don’t think anyone could have predicted they would be where theyare. It is just at testament to how strong that organization is. What hashappened with [New York Knicks guard] Jeremy Lin the last five games isstunning. We are all in amazement at what we are seeing. It has made for someincredible storylines given that he has breathed life back in that franchise,where Carmelo Anthony couldn’t. It is a crazy story but fantastic.”
O’Nealon New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin: “He has taken New York by storm and he is an NBAsensation.  The guy you have never heard of is becoming a star. I thinkpeople will want to see what the guy can do.”
Kerr onthe lineup for the New YorkKnicks:“Tyson Chandler has been a monster because he is the one rolling to therim and scoring big. Now you throw Amar’e [Stoudemire] in and now you have twoguys that want to roll. The question becomes can the Knicks space the floor.And when Carmelo [Anthony] comes back, can all those guys fit together? It comes down to if Amar’e and Carmelo can adapt and perhaps play lesserroles – which they are not used to.”
O’Nealon forward Dwight Howard staying in Orlandoand the situation being similar to his in 1992: “I don’t think it is similar because Ihad many different options. I wanted to stay in Orlando. I had everyone put their options onthe table and I took the best one. There may be an underlining problem of whatis really going on. I don’t know if he doesn’t like theorganization or wants to be in a bigger city. I don’t know really knowthe problem. I’m sure they would like to move him so they don’tlose him.”
O’Nealon the Miami Heat being a Top 10 team going intothe Playoffs:“Miami isalways going to be at the top of the list. They are playing well right now andseem to have a rhythm. Good thing about them is that if one of their stars goesdown, others will and know how to step up. It is going to be like last year.They have what it takes to get there but can they close? This year is going tobe a tricky year.” 
Kerr on Miami Heat being a favorite in the Eastern Conference: “Miami is a heavy favorite. I worry about twothings: One is fourth quarter execution. They tend to go back to their oldhabits and that is going to be an issue for them. The other thing I worry aboutis the pressure that is on them, that they put on themselves and that we[media] put on them. It is going to be enormous pressure on them and we have tosee how they will respond.”
Kerr on what the Oklahoma City Thunder need to improve upon:  “OKC is the best team inthe West.  I worry about fourth quarter execution. They are a little bitlike Miami– West. They overwhelm you with talent and the ability to beat you offthe dribble. But in the playoffs, can they execute when a team stays in frontof them and slows the game down? Can they get easy baskets? They are the mosttalented team, so we’ll see.”
Smith on what is going on with the Charlotte Bobcats and what they need to do to recover:  “When I got a chance to playwith them [Charlotte Bobcats], Bernie Bickerstaff created an atmosphere wherethe team that was coming back to Charlottewasn’t winning a lot, but they were playing hard. This team right nowlooks like it is bottoming-out but they are about to rebuild fromscratch. It comes down to – do they draft the best talent? And right nowthe Charlotte Bobcats are a team that is looking to rebuild.”  
Kerr on what is going on with the Charlotte Bobcats and what they need to do to recover:  “It’s going to be atough go here [in Charlotte]. They’ve totally bottomed out.  They are a total disaster right now.They are going to have to get lucky in the lottery and be really strong as anorganization in the next couple of years to get out of this.”  
O’Neal on the issues the Washington Wizards are having getting back on track: “The downside for Washington is you have alot of young talent with no veteran leadership. If they had some veteranleadership it could be better.  As a big man, I watch JaVale McGee and Isee the potential that he has. Other times I watch him and wonder who isteaching this kid. If they had good veteran leadership, they could startto turn it around.”
Kerr on the effect of the lockout onthe players so far this season and whether or not it is showing up in the games: “Its showing the most interms of consistency, or lack thereof, with the play. We are seeing games thatare spectacular and then some duds where there is nothing in thetank. This season has proven you need training camps. You need practice.And you need rest. And there’s not enough of any of that thisyear. With that said, everyone is competing and doing the best they can.Inevitably, there are going to be some stinkers.”
Smith on how the condensed season isaffecting players and the game: “There are some games where players justdon’t have legs.  There are some teams with depth and the playersand organizations understood going into this lockout you need to have 10-11guys that can contribute.”
Kerr on his impressions of Cleveland Cavaliers rookiepoint guard Kyrie Irving after having only played 11 college games: “It’s gotten harderand harder to evaluate players the last decade because so many come out earlyand you don’t see them enough. Clevelandmade a good choice. They knew the type of talent and potential he had[Kyrie Irving] at such an important spot. They knew they had to have someone atthat position. I love what he has done. He’s aggressive;he’s tough to handle; it’s tough to get in front of him and he isdefinitely their cornerstone for the future. He’s a great pick.”
O’Neal on Cleveland Cavaliers rookie point guard KyrieIrving:“He’s doing a fabulous job. This guy is on the rightpath. He’s a coachable guy. He’s a great team player. If Cleveland can make one ortwo moves this year and next year, they could become a respectable teamagain.”
Smith:  “Totally love his game becausehe’s so fundamentally sound. He’s poised, he’s mature andwhat I love about him is he is big and strong. He hasn’t been affected bya lot of different defenses thrown at him. He’s mentally beenprepared for this league.”  
O’Neal on LeBron James’legacy in Cleveland and how he sees Irving creating his ownplace:“What LeBron did was fabulous – legendary. He’s good. There willnever be another LeBron, how he did it. He was a born leader. Kyrie isalso a leader. [I’m] not trying to take anything away from him, I justurge people not to put too much pressure on him. Work him slowly.”
O’Neal’s expectations forthe All-Star Game in Orlandoand the mood of the fans with the potential trade of Dwight Howard: “All around, All-Star is going tobe a great event. Orlandohas come a long way since the ’92 All-Star game. It would be great if he[Dwight Howard] could put on a show and get the love and support of the fanshere and get the MVP. Hopefully, he stays.  If he leaves it will be atravesty.”
O’Neal on what theClippers’ chances are without injured point guard Chauncey Billups; if aplayer like Blake Griffin can be elite without being a great free-throw shooterand how he likes working with the TNT guys: “The Clippers have a great chance. If the three guards [Foye, Paul, Williams] can settle things down andhonor the possession and honor the shot clock and not play so erratically, theycan go pretty far.  On the free throw thing, I personally know a guy[Shaquille O’Neal] that dominated the game and shot 50 – 52%. It can be done.  If he dominates the game in a way and keeps everyoneinvolved, it will get done. I love working with Charles and Ernie and all theTNT guys.”
Smith on whether or not ClippersBlake Griffin can be a dominant player:  “Blake [Griffin] can be dominant.  It comes downto the players around him elevating their game so they can take the pressureoff Griffin. It’s going to come down to other players playing well for a longtime. They have a player in Paul that will make the right plays [toexecute in the fourth quarter] but it’s whether or not the supportingcast can open up the lane for the other guys.”  

O’Neal on what it’s beenlike for him not playing and transitioning into the new phase of his life: “It really hasn’t beendifficult. I prepared myself for it. I am blessed to have gotten theopportunity to get the call from TNT. Even though I am not out playingbasketball, I am still around it.”


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