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No amount of money can buy love for Lakers

Times Staff Writer

It’s playoff time in the NBA, and for TV pundits that means it’s open season on the Lakers.

TNT’s Charles Barkley, contending that the Lakers are better off playing the Phoenix Suns in the first round than the Dallas Mavericks or San Antonio Spurs, said they would have “no chance” against the Mavericks or Spurs.

Barkley didn’t stop there.

“If the Lakers get past the first round, it will be a big surprise,” he said. “Kobe Bryant is the best player in the NBA, he’s one of those guys that you have to watch. He’s got another gear that nobody else in the league has and it’s beautiful to watch. But his team is not very good. They are too inconsistent.”

And this from Jay Leno in Wednesday night’s monologue: “I have to make a correction. The other night I congratulated the Lakers for making the playoffs. Just Kobe made the playoffs. The other Lakers have been told to stay home.”

Mark Jackson, the commentator for Game 1 of the Lakers-Suns series on ABC Sunday at noon, is among the more objective voices.

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“The problem with the Lakers has been their inconsistency on the defensive end,” he said. “The important thing for them is for the role players to step up defensively.”

Mike Breen, the play-by-play announcer on Sunday’s telecast, said, “I think for the Lakers it all comes down to Lamar Odom and how healthy he is and how he performs.”

Joel Meyers, the Lakers’ TV play-by-play announcer, said, “It has been a tough season because of the inconsistency due to all the injuries.

“But what has stood out has been the perseverance and brilliant play of Kobe. Clearly, he is the most talented player in the league.”

And then there is Matt “Money” Smith of the Lakers’ flagship radio station, KLAC 570. He has been on the money all season, continually saying, “The only consistent thing about the Lakers is their inconsistency.”

Smith is in his second season of doing the Lakers’ pregame, halftime and postgame radio shows in addition to an afternoon drive-time talk show with Petros Papadakis.

One thing that stands out about Smith is his voice. People have said Meyers has one of the best voices in sports broadcasting. Smith has a similar rich baritone.

But that’s not what Meyers has noticed.

“I listen to him on my way to games,” he said, “and, to be honest, haven’t paid too much attention to his voice. What I like is his candor and honesty.”

Smith also knows basketball and has studied the Lakers extensively since coming here from Chicago in 1990 to attend Pepperdine with plans to become a lawyer.

As a kid, he went with his Uncle Frank to Bulls games, and that turned him into an NBA fan. While at Pepperdine, he attended Lakers game at the Forum. When he got out of college and got a job with London Records, he talked his new employer into supplying him with Lakers season tickets.

After six years and good job security at KROQ, where he had replaced Jimmy Kimmel, KLAC came calling. Don Martin, KLAC’s general manager and program director, won Smith over by offering him a role on the Lakers broadcasts.

“That’s absolutely what did it, no doubt about it,” Smith said.

Smith, 33, is married and the father of two daughters with another on the way. But what about that voice?

“During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I grew like four or five inches and my voice dropped. When I went back to school in the fall, my friends were asking, ‘What happened to your voice?’ ”

Whatever happened, it was a good thing.

Ducks’ L.A. ratings up

Versus, formerly OLN, reports it is averaging a cable rating of 0.3 for its NHL playoff coverage for 15 games over eight nights. That is even with last year’s average at the same juncture.

NBC got a 1.0 national rating for hockey on both Saturday and Sunday last weekend, and that was down from a 1.1 and a 1.4 for its first two days of playoff hockey last year.

But L.A. ratings were up for the Ducks, heading into Game 5 of their opening-round series against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. Through the first four games, the Ducks averaged a 0.63 rating in L.A., and that should improve.

A year ago, the average L.A. rating for the first-round series between the Ducks and Calgary, which went seven games, was 0.58. Game 4 Tuesday night on Channel 56 averaged a 0.8 rating, the highest ever for a Ducks telecast at that station. The rating peaked at a 1.4.

Short waves

Sign of the times: ESPN, which oversees ABC, is covering the NBA playoffs on 15 platforms, including broadcast TV, cable TV, high-definition channels, radio, broadband, ESPN Deportes, ESPN International, ESPN Mobile and ESPN the Magazine.

HBO has hired Andrea Kremer as a correspondent for “Real Sports,” but she will remain with NBC as well. Her first “Real Sports” assignment will air this summer.... HBO has also announced that it will produce a two-part documentary on the Brooklyn Dodgers to air July 11, the day after baseball’s All-Star game.... The first of four “De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7" reality episodes on HBO last Sunday night, following “The Sopranos” and “Entourage,” was seen in 1.4 million U.S. households.

Recommended viewing: The Lakers’ Ronny Turiaf will be featured on “NBA Access With Ahmad Rashad” on Channel 7 Saturday at 3:30 p.m., following “Sports Zone.”

A meeting between Turiaf, who underwent open-heart surgery to repair an enlarged aorta after being drafted in 2005, and 16-year-old Garylee Zuniga and his parents of Aztec, N.M., will tug at your emotions. The youngster also suffers from a serious heart ailment.

larry.stewart@latimes.com


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