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As NBA begins new season, here's an opening tip: West is best

The TV Repairman:

TNT gets its voluminous NBA schedule of 51 games (it only seems like more) off to a flying start tonight with the Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets colliding at 8, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns at 10:30.

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A tip from analyst Hubie Brown, who will be doing the late game, is that if a game involves teams from the Western Conference, "make sure and tune in. The West is loaded."

Meanwhile, and this should aid the cause of the Washington Bullets as they attempt to escape the depths of the league, Hubie classifies the East as "extremely weak when considering where it has been in the past."

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The Bullets open on the road in Philadelphia, Charlie Slowes doing a simulcast on Channel 20 and WXCL (103.1 FM) at 7:30. Slowes says, "You know in the past, how if a guy didn't like the TV announcer he'd turn the sound down and tune in radio? Well, we'll have no more of that around here."

* The biggest problem with Washington's Channel 7 picking up the Maryland-Florida State game in progress tomorrow at 1 p.m. is the point total of the top-ranked Seminoles figures to be in the 30s by then.

Obviously, this is an "in progress" weekend hereabout, Channel 13 joining the prestigious Skate America figure skating telecast on ABC an hour late Sunday, so it can do a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition show at 2 p.m. Ah, priorities.

* Ever since reading about the guy who got plugged by his wife in Florida because she wanted to watch the news while he preferred football, I've given up sole possession of the remote control and have taken to hiding the TV Guide.

Speaking of man's favorite pastime, channel grazing, even the most accomplished flipper will be put to a stern test tomorrow with seven dynamite races from the Breeders' Cup being shown on NBC between 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. while four football games, Paris indoor tennis, figure skating and a few other things are raging elsewhere.

The Breeders' is now in its 10th year and, despite scores of memorable races, the ratings lately have been embarrassing. What was once a 5.1 (4.7 million homes) is now a 3.0 (2.8 million homes). Regardless, NBC continues to throw everything it has into it, and for this it should be commended.

The top races tomorrow should be the Juvenile (the fifth race), pitting next year's Triple Crown hopefuls, the highly competitive Distaff, and, of course, the $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic.

* The Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield battle for the heavyweight championship starts at 9 p.m. tomorrow on pay-per-view, and the hope is that the oddsmakers have no clue for a change:

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Bowe is a 4-to-1 favorite.

While Bowe has expressed the opinion, "Everyone knows Evander's seen his better days," and Holyfield was only ordinary in a win over Alex Stewart, the champ has had just two short fights in the past year, against tomato cans Michael Dokes and Jesse Ferguson. Many think he's having a very tough time maintaining interest in his chosen profession.

Tommy Hearns on the undercard, taking on Andrew Maynard, will add to the obligatory bios accompanying the action, not to mention the fireworks always assured when Hearns winds up and starts firing that lethal right hand.

* Quipster Randy Cross of CBS, one of the best pro grid commentators, says of the 1-6 Washington Redskins, "Injuries and a couple of other factors have given the Washington-Baltimore area the expansion team it wanted."

* ESPN's Sunday night series of NFL games isn't the most appealing you'll ever see, beginning with the Colts at the Redskins this week. Then it's Bears at Chargers, Vikings at Buccaneers and Steelers at Houston closing out November. Come to think of it, just how many good NFL matchups can you think of these days?

* Chris Berman knows a good thing we he sees it. "Boomer" just signed a seven-year contract extension with ESPN, taking him through 2001 (and a sure toupee). Unlike most of his colleagues, Berman knows the key to his success: "Maybe it's that I don't annoy people."

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* Reports of Dale Hunter's return to practice with the Washington Capitals (both print and broadcast) made it appear as though he were coming back from a goodwill mission or something equally laudable. Remember the guy's sneak attack from the rear during the playoffs that earned him the lengthy suspension? Obviously, a lot of the media doesn't.

* Usually, time and experience result in a sportscaster improving, becoming more insightful and developing a pleasing style. Then there's Paul Maguire. Is every night New Year's Eve with this guy? His analysis while doing games for NBC is often anything but.

"This is what you call a running back taking on a corner back," said Maguire of a replay during the Jets-Giants game last Sunday. Oh! This is one of about a dozen comments that added nothing and didn't make much sense.

Then there are the gales of laughter. Partner Marv Albert, speaking of Ronnie Lott, said, "Bill Parcells says Lott is going into the Hall of Fame on roller skates," and Maguire could barely contain his glee. Write if you can think of an announcer anywhere who enjoys his own output near as much as Maguire does.

* The young lady that fans watched win the 1992 World Pro Figure Skating Championships on television here last weekend, Kristi Yamaguchi, is returning to USAir Arena Dec. 11 to defend her crown. Others listed for the competition, which will be shown on a delay basis in January, are Midori Ito, Jill Trenary, Brian Orser, Paul Wylie and Robin Cousins.

* One of the reasons Gary Bender is loved by pro football coaches is the TNT play-by-play guy quotes them as if their words carry the weight of scripture. The other night, for instance, Bender said, "Detroit coach Wayne Fontes said by the time [Herman Moore] is through, he'll be the best receiver in Lions' history." Take that, Cloyce Box, Dorne Dibble, Gail Cogdill and a few more.

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With two more networks in the works, chances are the peripatetic Bender will be working well into the next century.

* For you die-hards who insist you can't go another instant without baseball, be advised Home Team Sports is sending along an Arizona Fall League game at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

* The "This is the NFL" show on Channel 2 Sunday noon should be a goodie: "Great teams that didn't win the big game." Chances are the slip by the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III against the New York Jets might be included.

* They're asking $20 for "The Joe Montana Story" in the video stores, rather steep for a tape that runs only 45 minutes. There's some great footage of Joe pulling out games when he was at Notre Dame, including back-to-back Cotton Bowl miracles.

While on the subject of Montana, Saul Montana (no relation) gets a shot at Virgil Hill's WBA light-heavyweight belt next Tuesday on USA's "Tuesday Night Fights."


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