ESPN analyst Jon Barry will broadcast the third game of the Thunder-Rockets series Saturday night, working with play-by-play announcer Dave Pasch and reporter Holly Rowe. It will be their second game in less than 24 hours as the crew also called the Denver-Golden State game Friday night.
Barry, 43, who played for eight NBA teams, including the Rockets, in a 14-season NBA career, had picked the Thunder to return to the NBA Finals before Russell Westbrook's knee injury. He discussed how the injury would affect the Thunder.
Will this bring an end to the Thunder's season?
I don't know for this series. I still think they will stay find a way to get by here. Obviously, a huge blow, depending on what this is. It could possibly be a two-to-three week thing or could be a season-ending. Obviously we will find out. But, man, a huge blow. I don't think they can get through the Western Conference without Russell Westbrook.
Was it a dirty play by Rockets guard Patrick Beverley in which Westbrook got hurt?
I didn't think so. I know Russell was pretty upset about it, but I didn't see anything that Beverley was trying to do that could have been construed as dirty.
How do you think Reggie Jackson will step up to the challenge as Westbrook's replacement?
I think he's made some great strides from last year. Obviously there is no replacing what Russell can do and his ability to attack the basket as good as anybody at the point-guard position. This is going to be a heavy reliance on Kevin Durant. We've seen Durant play a lot of point guard this year with the basketball. I think we're going to see a lot more now. He's going to have to play the facilitating role. He's probably going to have up his game. I know he's got a great stretch of 20-point games going. He might need to make that 30- or 35-point games now.
You're taking 20-plus games out of the lineup and the guy who holds the basketball. Everybody else has to do their part. Can (Serge) Ibaka be more of a force down in the paint? (Thabo) Sefolosha is going to have knock down more shots. You're going to see that zone (from Houston) a lot more Saturday night. It was pretty effective in Game 2. I would say Reggie is better suited to play against that zone. I think he is a better standstill shooter, so maybe that can work to their advantage in that aspect. Like when you lose a great player, everybody has got to better to try to make up for it. I assume they will play with great energy. I think they still will be able to get through this series.
I know some of the ESPN analysts called Westbrook the second-best player in the Western Conference behind Durant. How would you rate him?
To me he's the best athlete at the point guard position we have in the game. I think he's made improvements. He's probably the best pullup jump shooter in the game. His decision-making has gotten better this year. Look, he's going to take some shots here and there that aren't great shots and make decisions that aren't the greatest. You live with that because for every one bad play he makes, he makes five good ones. You just don't replace him. Reggie Jackson has had a nice year, but this is a major blow to OKC. The Spurs, the Clippers and the Nuggets, their eyes just got a little wider. What an opportunity now!
How do you approach back-to-back telecasts?
I would do one every night. I tell you, doing the playoffs is special. The game goes to another level. The intensity. Every play seems to be the hugest play of the year. I would do them all if I could. I watch all the games. ... That's what I've been doing all my life. To be able to call them is a lot of fun. I wish it was in OKC. That's a great arena to be in.
I know you were in the studio last year. Do you prefer calling games?
Yeah, I do. That something I've been clamoring for for years. You never know what might transpire in that two-and-a-half-hour span. It's a lot of fun. It's great to be out and see a lot of former people I know since I played on every team in the NBA. I always know somebody when I get around.