Bernard King, Earl ‘The Pearl’ Join MSG
The Knick legends join network’s Playoff coverage.
by Kyle Stack / @KyleStack
The New York Knicks’ first playoff appearance in seven seasons is a big deal to Knicks fans and a mega opportunity for MSG Network, the television home of the team. A unique season in which the Knicks and the NHL’s Rangers are each in the postseason has given MSG Network an ability to extend its game programming to the Tri-State area in a way it hasn’t since 1997, the last time each team was in its respective playoffs.
In order to celebrate this occurrence, the network invited a handful of reporters into its ground floor studios at 11 Penn Plaza, across the street from Madison Square Garden, to watch Game 2 of the Knicks-Boston Celtics series with the in-studio broadcast team. That team was expanded prior to the first round as former Knicks greats Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Bernard King joined ex-NBA All-Star Kelly Tripucka and host Al Trautwig for pre-game, in-game and post-game coverage. The decision to bring in Monroe, who played nine seasons for the Knicks from 1971-80, and King, who spent four seasons in blue and orange from 1982-87, was an easy decision to make, as explained to SLAMonline.
“They know MSG, MSG Network…they’re once a Knick, always a Knick,” said Dan Ronayne, executive vice president and general manager of MSG Network. “They know the team, the players.”
MSG Network has expanded its coverage for the Knicks playoffs by adding an hour-long post-game show after each first round game and broadcasting a 30-minute pre-game show before the Game 1 and 2 road games. That will grow to a 60-minute pre-game telecast for Games 3 and 4, which are to be played Friday and Sunday across the street at the Garden. The 60-minute pre-game show for home games, 30-minute pre-gamer for road contests and 60-minute post-game wrap-ups will continue if the series extends beyond four games.
Ronayne explained that coverage of the playoff series was a necessary step to make for the network to please its viewers. “We wanted to be ready for the playoffs, so we’ve been planning for this spring for the last couple months, to make sure we were ready,” Ronayne said. The response from viewers for Game 1 was strong.
In that game, MSG Network took in a 3.29 house-hold rating, measured as the percentage of households in the area tuned into the game at any particular moment. By comparison, the network averaged a 1.83 rating for the regular season, which represented an 88.7 percent increase from the 2009-10 regular season, according to SportsBusiness Journal. (MSG Network told SLAMonline the Knicks garnered a 1.82 rating, which according to final rating numbers represent a 100 percent increase against the 0.91 rating averaged during the 2009-10 season.) Game 2′s rating garnered a 2.44 HH rating, but a boost is likely starting in Game 3, when the Knicks host their first playoff game since 2004.
While the network’s pre-game show is held in Studio B, the crew travels over to Studio A, with its window that peeks onto Seventh Avenue, for the game and its quick-hitting in-game telecasts for MSGXtra. The segments, which hit about once per quarter for a couple minutes and feature in-game analysis from the four-man crew between breaks in action, is an online compliment for fans that can be viewed on KnicksNow.com and MSG.com. Its advantage is in showcasing what trends Monroe, King and Tripucka are observing throughout the game.
“[The analysis] starts with trends, who has the hot hand, runs by both teams…it’s what stands out most,” Tripucka said not only of the tidbits he offers for MSGXtra but also for the MSG Network’s halftime show. Tripucka said the game takes care of itself – viewers can often understand the basis of what’s happening by watching the game – but that awareness is paramount.
“It kind of lulls you to sleep because you see those things in the first, second and third quarter but then all of a sudden things change with five minutes to go,” Tripucka continued. “That’s when it gets really crazy.”
And it did get crazy in Game 2′s second half, when the Knicks, led by Carmelo Anthony, went on an 18-6 run from 35 seconds left in the third quarter to 6:48 remaining in the fourth, when the Knicks held a one-point lead at 81-80. That one-point lead remained, at 91-90, when the game hit the two-minute mark. That’s a situation which King had forecasted as dire for the Knicks.
“This is a game you don’t want to come down to the last two minutes because of the experience of the Celtics,” King said just before halftime. That point was proven as the Celtics escaped with a 96-93 victory. King’s analysis was on-point, and he said it’s his job to figure out the shifts in a game that bring it to the point at which he had hinted.
“I know points in a game where I realize something important is happening in terms of the flow of the game, where it’s changing, the offensive rebounding, who’s getting shots and where they’re getting them, what’s happening to Carmelo when he’s putting the ball on the floor and who’s rotating defensively,” King said.
King and the rest of the crew’s ability to track the game was made more convenient with the 10 TVs dotting Studio A – seven 42-inch screens (including one on the front of the studio desk), two 50-inch televisions and one 70-inch screen that consumed the attention of the 20-odd people in the studio.
If that seems like a lot of televisions for one space, then consider that the 11 Penn facility houses 213 digital televisions – 135 Sony, 67 Vizio and 11 Samsung, six of which are 3D. More than 60 miles of fiber optics run between 11 Penn and the Garden, and over 47 miles of video cabling and 35 miles of audio cabling exist throughout the 11 Penn facility.
It’s the existing technology that permits MSG Network to give its analysts every which way to absorb a game’s information. But it’s the chemistry and astuteness from the on-air talent that communicates the analysis points that might be missed by the viewer at home. And for Game 3 and beyond on MSG Network, Knicks fans will re-discover the excitement of the NBA’s postseason on their home turf, led by a crew featuring two ex-Knicks who understand what playoff basketball in New York City is all about.
MSG Network studio image provided by Rebecca Taylor/MSG Photos