ABC's “NBA Sunday Showcase” debuts this season with a doubleheader Sunday: Miami at Oklahoma City at noon and Boston at Los Angeles Lakers at 2:30 p.m. Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown and reporter Heather Cox will broadcast the Heat-Thunder game. Brown, a veteran NBA analyst, discussed the Heat, Thunder and Clippers rookie Blake Griffin:
Is the Heat living up to your expectations?
If you consider six new people — mainly bringing in (Chris) Bosh and LeBron (James) — the injury factor, the fact that they are 31-13 (through Wednesday), that's about where they should be. It's been difficult for the coaching staff and difficult for the players because when you trade for that amount of people and when they come to a situation, they have to work out all the little idiosyncrasies of your offense and defense during October, November and December. I didn't expect them to be at full blast until January if they were healthy. So, in my opinion, they are doing extremely well. The big thing, as you can see, if they're going to maintain excellence and then challenge Boston for the Eastern Conference at playoff time, everyone has to be healthy.
Has Russell Westbrook earned a spot on the Western Conference All-Star Team?
Yes. To me, everyone will tell you to make it in the West is so difficult. There are eight point guards in the West who have stats. ... Westbrook is backing up his play with not just the 22 points a game and 8 assists because he's 13th and eighth (NBA rankings), but he's also fourth in the league in steals. And he's a load at the point guard position because of his size and strength. He could very easily play an offguard position without any problem. There's definitely no question about (Kevin) Durant being on the team. In my opinion, as I look at all these people who people are putting him against, I believe he also should be on the team.
How big a factor has the loss of assistant coach Ron Adams played a role in the Thunder's defensive decline this season?
You would have to sit down with the coaching staff and say, ‘How much of an input did Ron Adams have when he was here?' Because it's just like NFL football right now, the defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator, they're all getting the fanfare right now. Then it comes down to who had more influence on the Jets defense: Was it Rex Ryan as the head coach or was it the defensive coordinator? Believe me, Ron Adams is excellent. Every place he's been he's been a very heavy contributor to the team's defense.
Are you surprised former OU star Blake Griffin is doing so well as a rookie with the Clippers?
I had him against Portland and Denver early in the season. In those two games he showed me he's more than just a diamond in the rough. We're dealing with spectacular. And I don't use that word very often. He has the ability to overpower people at one of the toughest positions to play in the league, power forward. He has the excitement to draw the fan to want to come to their games — because their attendance is up. The numbers he's putting up against the so-called reputation power forwards in the West is absolutely staggering. And there is still a lot of room for improvement at the offensive end. He is still raw there. But God almighty. He does stuff. It's like, ‘Wait a second! Play that back! Play that back!' Because he is just so overpowering.
â€˜College Game Day' at Kansas showdown
ESPN's â€œCollege GameDayâ€ will be in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday to preview the Kansas State-Kansas men's basketball game, which will air at 6 p.m. on ESPN. The show will have one-hour editions at 9 a.m. on ESPNU and 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on ESPN. Rece Davis hosts the program with analysts Jay Bilas, Hubert Davis and Digger Phelps. Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale and reporter Erin Andrews will call the game.
* The â€œNBA on ESPN RV Tour,â€ an experiential marketing promotion for ABC and ESPN's NBA coverage, will be located outside the Oklahoma City Arena from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Sunday. Fans can participate in activities such as free throw contests, vertical jump challenges, souvenir photo stations. NBA on ESPN branded premiums, such as mini-basketballs, T-shirts, backpacks and rally towels will be given away.
* ESPNU will air a record 10 hours of programming on National Signing Day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday.
* Rusty Wallace, ESPN's lead studio analyst for auto racing, has reached a new contract extension to remain with ESPN through the 2014 season.
* NBC will present seven hours of live coverage of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships this Saturday (2-5 p.m. and 8-10 p.m.) and Sunday (3-5 p.m.) from Greensboro, N.C.
* President Barack Obama will be interviewed by Bill O'Reilly on the Fox Super Bowl pregame show from 1 to 5 p.m. Feb. 6.