Much Like the Upstart Rockets, NBC Enjoys Strong Postseason

That was some NBA postseason, and NBC's ratings reflected the nation's interest.

Game 4 of the final Wednesday night got a 14.9 national rating, compared to a 12.9 for Game 4 last year.

The Houston-Orlando finals averaged a 13.9, second highest ever for a four-game final. Only Detroit's sweep of the Lakers in 1989, with a 15.1, did better.

Overall, NBC's camera work and announcing were superb. Matt Guokas, with his understated delivery, might have finally arrived, and Bill Walton was Bill Walton, candid and opinionated.

If there was a flaw in NBC's coverage, it was the graphics. How many times Wednesday night did you wonder how many points Hakeem Olajuwon or Shaquille O'Neal had and NBC failed to tell you?

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They might have been the best NBA playoffs ever, even though the finals didn't last very long. Actually, Houston's sweep made it even more of an improbable story.

So what will NBC do for an encore?

Golf's U.S. Open, the network's first since 1965, isn't bad. After ESPN shows the NBC-produced second round today, NBC will show the final two rounds Saturday and Sunday.

This is the first year of NBC's three-year, $40-million contract to televise the Open.

NBC has Johnny Miller and Dave Marr, who are favorites among the picky golf set, but the network also has Bob Trumpy, who is not.

Host Dick Enberg, new to golf, is regarded as an outsider. But unlike ABC's Brent Musburger, who has to put his melodramatic stamp on everything, Enberg realizes he's an outsider. He said he knows his job is to "stay out of the way."

"With golf, the analysts are the stars," he said. "You're not calling play by play, you don't call shot by shot. That's what the analysts do."

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Sports talk: There are more than 130 all-sports stations nationwide, but all-sports radio disappeared from Los Angeles after KMPC was sold and changed formats last May. Sports talk in L.A. was dead--except for XTRA, which covers both San Diego and Los Angeles, and KABC's "Sportstalk," with Steve Edwards and Eric Tracy.

But then along came Chris Gibbs, the man who runs the new minor league Long Beach Barracuda baseball club. Gibbs was looking for a station to carry Barracuda games when he found KMAX-FM (107.1), a Pasadena-Arcadia station carrying foreign-language music and programming.

KMAX, a brokerage station, sells time to people with program ideas--and good credit.

Gibbs, a frequent listener and caller to Joe McDonnell and Doug Krikorian when they were on KMPC, not only bought time for Barracuda broadcasts but also time for McDonnell and Krikorian to go back on the air, which they did in early March.

KMAX, on its own, has since gradually increased its sports programming, and this week it became all-sports. The weekday lineup:

--6-10 a.m.: Dallas-based Tom Joyner's entertainment and sports show, syndicated by ABC radio. KMAX's Reggie Utley and Jan Marie, called "the home team," offer periodic local flavor.

--10 a.m.-2 p.m.: ESPN radio's Nanci Donnellon, who bills herself as the "Fabulous Sports Babe." Knowledgeable but brash to the point of being rude. Imagine someone having the audacity to call herself "the Fabulous Sports Babe."

--2-6 p.m.: McDonnell and Krikorian. Outrageous and off the wall, but they sometimes break stories, such as Magic Johnson's desire to play in the 1996 Olympics and his thoughts of returning to the Lakers next season. Jeff Biggs does a nice job with the updates, and lawyer Paul Caruso's regular analysis of the O.J. Simpson trial is excellent. The show gets a boost when producer Nick Zaccagnino, who was with McDonnell and Krikorian at KMPC, comes aboard on Monday.

--6-9 p.m.: "The Rock 'n' Roll Sports Page" with Rich Herrera. He comes from Bakersfield and makes up for a lack of knowledge of the L.A. sports scene with enthusiasm. ESPN examines the radio talk-show phenomenon on "Outside the Lines" Monday at 4:30 p.m., and Herrera will be among those featured.

--9-midnight, Sunday through Thursday: "The Sports Gods," Dave Smith and Joey Haim. These guys first got together in a gym, and they sound like it--wacky and not very professional. And billing yourself as "Sports Gods" is worse than billing yourself "the Fabulous Sports Babe." McDonnell calls them "Sports Pagans."

--9-midnight, Fridays: Beginning tonight, Bob Rowe, Dr. Angel Fever himself, returns to the airwaves.

KMAX has a number of special programs, such as "Thoroughbred Los Angeles" with Mike Willman and Curt Hoover Saturdays and Sundays, 9-10 a.m., "The Center Ice Hockey Hour" Mondays at 7 p.m., and "Ringside With Johnny Ortiz," which has been expanded to 3-5 p.m. Fridays with a special Saturday edition expected to be added soon.

"The response to Johnny's show has been tremendous," said program director Keith James.

KMAX, besides the Barracuda, will also carry the Stanley Cup finals, beginning Saturday. The station also has made deals to broadcast baseball's All-Star game, playoffs and World Series, and the San Francisco 49ers.

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TV-Radio Notes

Clyde Drexler will be a guest on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" Tuesday. . . . ESPN2's "Baseball Across America Tour" has a stop at Rancho Cucamonga next Thursday, when a game between the Quakes and San Jose Giants will be televised. The ESPN2 play-by-play announcer is Matt Vasgersian, 27, a USC graduate. Joe Castellano, another USC graduate and the Quakes' radio play-by-play announcer, will join Vasgersian and commentator Steve Lyons for an inning.

Prime Sports will televise six Roller Hockey International games from the Forum involving the Los Angeles Blades, with Bill Macdonald and Jim Fox announcing. The first one will be the home opener Sunday at 6 p.m. against the San Diego Barracudas. . . . All Anaheim Bullfrog roller hockey games are broadcast on radio station KORG (1190), with Lou Stowers and Charlie Simmer announcing. . . . Ann Liguori's first guest seven years ago on her syndicated "Sports Innerview" show was Mickey Mantle. That show will be replayed on Prime Sports Wednesday at 5 p.m.

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