Fans flock to NBA games, but don't watch hoops on TV

A little bit about a lot of things.

More fans watched the NBA this season than ever before. Attendance records were set but apparently that has not transformed on to your TV screen.

Nielsen ratings for regular-season games were down for every TV partner, ESPN, ABC and TNT.

Last Saturday, for example, the NFL draft on ESPN received higher national ratings than both the Philadelphia-Detroit playoff game Saturday and the New Jersey-Miami game on Sunday.

ESPN said Saturday's 5 1/2-hour marathon averaged 4.9 million viewers, which is a good number. It ranked second among all cable programs last week. The network said 34.4 million people watched at least part of its two-day coverage.


Of course it hurts when some of the more recognizable players in the league -- Kevin; Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James -- are all sitting at home.

ESPN and ESPN2 have three playoff games tonight, TNT and ESPN will televise four on Saturday and ESPN, ABC and TNT will have four more on Sunday.

Fired Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders is currently working for TNT on its NBA playoff coverage. Last Sunday he was at the Washington-Chicago game from Chicago along with Marv Albert and Steve Kerr. The night before, Saunders was having dinner with Kerr, who remains very popular in Chicago following his playing days with the Bulls.

A fan came up to Kerr and asked if he could have his picture taken, handing the camera to Saunders. The fan had no idea that Saunders was an ex-coach in the NBA.

"One day coaching KG (Kevin Garnett) and the next my own personal photographer,'' quipped Kerr the next day on the telecast.


To make room for the two Twins games that were snowed out last weekend in Detroit, Fox Sports Net North will televise two additional Sunday afternoon games, against Tampa Bay on May 8 and vs. San Diego on June 9.

The Twins game Wednesday against Kansas City, a 9-4 win, generated an 8.6 rating on FSN North, which is the all-tme high for a game before July on the network. It was the highest-rated program in the Twin Cities market in the 9 p.m. hour.


Yawn. The Gophers football game Sept. 1 at Tulsa will be televised at 9:15 p.m. on ESPN2. The same network will carry the Wisconsin at Hawaii game at 8 p.m. Nov. 25.

The University of Minnesota has two listed among ESPN's preseason top 100 college football players. They include running back Laurence Maroney, ranked 12th and center Greg Eslinger, who is listed 16th.

Holiday madness. This year the NFL is playing on Halloween (Ravens-Steelers on Monday night), Christmas Eve (13 Saturday games), Christmas Day (Bears-Packers and Vikings-Ravens), New Year's Eve (Broncos-Chargers and Giants-Raiders) and New Year's Day (14 Sunday games to end the regular season).

That has never happened before.

FSN North will televise a total of six Minnesota Lynx games this year, five from Target Center, including June 4 against former University of Minnesota center Janel McCarville and the Charlotte Sting. The lone road game is June 30 at Connecticut, against another ex-Gopher, Lindsay Whalen.

The June 11 game with Washington and ex-Rochester Mayo star Coco Miller will also be televised.

The Lynx will be on twice nationally on ESPN2, July 17 vs. Connecticut and Aug. 23 at Los Angeles.

Marney Gellner will do the play-by-play with Andrea Lloyd Curry as analyst.


Nice gig if you can get it. Eight individuals embarked on the ultimate golf adventure -- a race to play 18 of the PGA Tour's most recognizable holes in 10 different states, over 13 days. "PGA Tour 18 -- Golf' s Ultimate Road Trip''televised on CBS (host David Feherty) May 7, May 21 and May 28, all with 1 p.m. starts.

The 26th annual Sports Emmys Awards will be held Monday from New York.

Paul Christian is a Post-Bulletin sports writer. He writes a weekly Friday column dealing with TV and radio sports and can be reached at

A variety of sources was used to compile this column.

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