Reggie Miller will be a TNT analyst alongside Marv Albert and Steve Kerr for the NBA All-Star game next Sunday in Orlando, Fla., with the network airing exclusive coverage of All-Star weekend starting Thursday.
The former UCLA star knows the scene well, having played in five All-Star games during a distinguished NBA career (1987-2005) spent exclusively with the Indiana Pacers.
Raised in Riverside and currently residing in Los Angeles, Miller, 46, scored more than 25,000 points and made more than 2,500 three-pointers during a career that included several memorable playoff battles against the New York Knicks and a trip to the 2000 NBA Finals against the champion Lakers.
Miller will help call Monday night's Lakers-Portland game on TNT.
What's it like being an All-Star — the perks, benefits, the whole experience?
"There's two different levels. Getting voted in by the fans, which can be a popularity contest decided by a guy in his basement clicking 'Reggie Miller' a million times, and being a reserve selected by coaches. To me, it means more going in when selected by your peers. It was always exciting to be one of the 24 guys out of the 300-plus in the league selected to put on a great spectacle. I would say . . . you always remember your first. Mine was 1990, where Kevin Johnson and myself — him coming from Cal, me from UCLA — were the only first-timers. I remember walking into the locker room seeing Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, [Larry] Bird, [Patrick] Ewing, [Isiah] Thomas, Robert Parish and it was like, 'I'm just going to go to this corner and be in awe, basically.' Being 23, 24, in there with all of those guys who are all Hall of Famers now. It's quite an experience. There were gift bags and swag, but who cares about that? What I remember is everyone keeping the ceramic nameplate above their locker, getting them signed, and our shorts and sweats autographed. Just being in the same vicinity with those same guys you'd be tripping, grabbing, battling against all year for a championship was the best thing."
What unique things do you guys at TNT have planned for this year's coverage?
"For the slam-dunk competition, you know that show 'Sport Science?' We'll be measuring with a sensor in the net the velocity, trajectory, the force of all those dunks and be able to say, 'That one's in comparison to someone dropping a brick off a 10-story building,' or whatever it is. That'll be cool. The technology of a broadcast evolves so much, and Turner does a great job of being cutting-edge. They'll also show and compare the biggest dunks, like when Shaq ripped the rim off the backboard, Shawn Kemp's, [Darryl] Dawkins'."
Of the Lakers and Clippers, who's better now and who'll be the last team standing?
"The Clippers are more exciting with Chris Paul, the addition of Caron Butler, Lob City and all that. But there's something to be said about a guy with five championships who leads the league in scoring. All [Kobe Bryant] wants to do is win and he has two 7-footers down low. I know they're struggling to score with Mike Brown putting in his new system, but their defense is keeping them in every game and defense still wins championships. I just think the Lakers are a tough out over seven games. The Clippers are exciting, but until they win a postseason series, I'm going to err on the side of Kobe, Pau, Fish and Bynum."
What have you taken from the Jeremy Lin phenomenon?
"It's fantastic for the league. There are guys on the end of benches in high school, college and the NBA saying, 'If I just had that one shining moment. . . .' [Lin] was ready to be cut for Mike James, he got in that game vs. New Jersey and made the most of it. That's what I tell all the kids who come to my summer camps: 'You'll get a shot, it's about what you do with it.' Great story."
Does he have staying power?
"As big as they're building him up, they'll tear him back down. It's one thing to do this against New Jersey, Toronto, Washington, Utah, the Hornets, and every point guard kills the Lakers, but after these bottom dwellers, I want to see him against [Derrick] Rose, [Rajon] Rondo, Paul, Tony Parker. I want to see more body of work, versus upper-echelon players."
How do you project your beloved Knicks to fare?
"The pink elephant in the room is Carmelo Anthony and how he meshes. Lin has been a dream for Amare [Stoudemire]. Look at how he, Landry Fields, Tyson Chandler are running to fight for the wings. When Carmelo was playing, the ball stopped, he had Velcro hands. He can't do that anymore. They need to get him the ball with like six seconds left on the [shot] clock, not 20. Obviously, it wasn't successful before the Jeremy Lin story began. That said, if they want to beat the upper-echelon teams, they need Carmelo — they need both — with the goal to finish between third or sixth in the East to avoid Miami and Chicago."
What'd you think of the post-lockout, tightly scheduled first half?
"Ugly basketball. You can't sugarcoat it. Shooting percentage and scoring is down. [Portland forward] LaMarcus Aldridge, Kobe, Chauncey Billups, Manu Ginobili have all been hurt. Guys are tired and sore. It may get uglier with so many more games left and no chance to recover. If you're not Miami, Chicago, Oklahoma City or the Spurs, you just want to make the playoffs and get to a situation where there's no more back-to-backs. Right now, it's all about health."
Who's going to the Finals?
"The West is wide open. OKC ran out of the gates, but they don't scare me. I look at Dallas now. Dirk [Nowitzki] has found his conditioning, and if it's OKC-Dallas, you know what you're getting from Dirk, [Jason] Kidd and [Jason] Terry. If Rose and Rip Hamilton get healthy, [the Bulls] could get Miami, but I lean toward Miami in the East now."