September 23, 2020

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What it’s like calling Spurs games for radio and TV from 1,000 miles away

2 min read

The remainder of the NBA season hasn’t just been a different experience for fans and players. It’s been different for broadcasters.

SAN ANTONIO — As life in the NBA bubble continues in Orlando this week, you’ve probably been enjoying watching the Spurs make their playoff push. But what about the broadcast teams covering the games? Are they in the bubble as well?

Well, no. San Antonio’s broadcast teams aren’t even in Florida, let alone the east coast. Actually, they’re broadcasting from the hometown area, the AT&T Center here in the Alamo City. 

And it’s been a whole different experience for these broadcasting veterans. 

“I didn’t know if I could pill it off,” said TV play-by-play announcer Bill Land of doing his job from afar. “I had faith in the crew, the guys in the truck.”

“This kind of sterilizies the game a little bit compared to being right there on the sidelines,” added Sean Elliott, the TV color analyst. 

As with most every routine that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has turned upside down, there’s been some adjustments. And flexibility is key. 

“We’ve pieced lots of things with lots of moving parts, and everybody is making adjustments and making the most of it,” said Mike Kickirillo, the Spurs’ senior director of broadcast. 

It’s not as easy as you might imagine attempting live broadcasts of Florida games from Texas, but the guys are pulling it off thanks to the creature comforts they’d normally have. And thanks to all the technology, most fans don’t even notice that they’re not in the bubble. 

“We can’t take credit for that,” Elliott said. “You have to give credit to guys in the truck.”

“Makes it not feel as different while acknowledging the fact that it is different,” Kickirillo added. 

Land, meanwhile, lauded the league’s efforts at finishing out the remainder of the season under extraordinary circumstances. 

“What the NBA has done in general is genius,” he said. 

And long-time radio presence Bill Schoening says he’s made sure to keep up the illusion that he’s right there on the sidelines in Florida, as if nothing’s different. 

“I’ve got the big 50-inch television screenin front of me. I’ve got my lineups,” he said. “I’m acting like I’m there, even though I’m not.”


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