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The NBA Playoffs start with a bang this weekend for ABC and ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who will call two games within 24 hours of each other — on opposite sides of the country.
On Saturday, he will be on hand when the Golden State Warriors visit the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center at 12.30 p.m., PST, and on Sunday Van Gundy will fly to the East Coast to commentate on the Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Bobcats face-off in Florida.
American Airlines Arena is a location that the basketball analyst expects to see a lot of action this postseason, as he predicted in a conference call on Thursday that fans could see a repeat of both last year’s teams in the Finals.
“Well, obviously I think the Heat have the easier road than the San Antonio Spurs. Anybody in the West’s road to get to the Finals is really going to be difficult.
“I think whoever wins the Western Conference will win the whole thing,” he said. “But certainly getting there will be a challenge out of the West. I’d give Miami a lot better chance than I would any individual team in the Western Conference to come out.”
While in field-goal percentage Miami is way down than in the past two years (when they won the NBA championship back-to-back), the former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach said that doesn’t rule out their chances of a three-peat.
“Certainly, it’s a concern. I don’t think you can say it’s not a concern. But I do believe because of their speed and quickness, and if they’re healthy and they have a renewed commitment, which I’m sure they will have, I would suspect that their defense will be very disruptive in the postseason.
“If it’s not, then they could lose in the Eastern Conference Finals,” he warned.
Van Gundy went on to reveal a confrontation that he recently experienced off the court with Sirius XM radio personality Howard Stern.
The commentator had called out the D.J. during his broadcast for leaving a Knicks game last week early — despite having a front row seat. Stern responded by taking to his radio platform in a tirade that included pointing out that Van Gundy has never won a NBA championship. “I’ve been No. 1 many times in my career, Jeff, and let me tell you something, it takes intense dedication,” blasted the America’s Got Talent judge.
When asked about the altercation on the conference call, Van Gundy replied: “You know, what’s funny is I was sitting in a movie theater watching this movie, it was an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, Sabotage, or something like that.
“A friend of mine texted me and said, ‘Can you believe what Stern said about you?’ And so I’m sitting in the theater thinking, why would David Stern [former NBA commissioner] be talking about me now?
“So I was perplexed. I said, ‘What did he say?’ So he came back with what he said, and I’m like, ‘Man, that is not like the commissioner to call me a douchebag.’ I didn’t know what it was about.
When he realized it was Howard and not David, he explains, “I didn’t know why he had been upset or [why] he was talking about me,” confessed Van Gundy. “I guess I said something jokingly about him leaving a game early. I didn’t even know he was still on. I guess he’s on Sirius. So it was funny,” he added.
When it comes to the biggest names in basketball rather than entertainment, Van Gundy has no doubts that LeBron James and Kevin Durant will both be in the running for MVP.
“They’re both worthy, and to me, Durant, I just love the whole way he goes about his job. I’m drawn to the humbleness of him and just how great he is. I’m just a huge fan.”
The NBA Playoffs will start and finish on ESPN’s family of networks, beginning Saturday and culminating with the Finals on ABC.
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