For years, the basketball snobs have looked down their noses at the NBA, sniffing that there's little strategy involved in the fast-paced professional game.
In that vein, it would seem the hoop elite would have Exhibit #1 in their laps with Sunday's All-Star Game from Phoenix's America West Arena (6 p.m., Channel 11), where the playground game comes indoors and defense is forsaken.
"This will certainly be a mental test to see how many telestrators we can have going at one time," said NBC's Marv Albert, who will call his first televised All-Star Game.
As Albert's analyst partners, Matt Guokas and Steve Jones, tell it, there really will be some coaching and strategy going on between Orlando's Brian Hill, the Eastern Conference coach, and his Western counterpart, Paul Westphal of Phoenix.
"You'll see both coaches use a lot of combinations to see who works with who, and then try to go with the best set for most of the fourth quarter," said Guokas.
"These players have special individual skills that will shine. They all know they'll get a chance to show what they have," said Jones.
The NBA game, airing in prime time for the third straight year with ratings generally comparable to the baseball and football versions, is the culmination of a weekend full of activities, which begins tonight with a preview show on TNT at 10 p.m.
At 7 p.m. tomorrow, TNT will be host to the league's skills exhibition, billed as "All-Star Saturday," with the rookie all-star game, the slam-dunk championship and the three-point shooting competition all crammed into three hours of excitement.
And during halftime of the rookie game, 16-year-old Mike Hoban of Strongsville, Ohio, will provide the new working definition of fear when he is asked to make a shot from three-point range. If he is successful, he wins $1 million. If he is not, all his classmates and the entire nation will make fun of him.
ABC has the finals of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships from Providence, R.I., in two parts tomorrow, with the men's competition at 4:30 p.m. during "Wide World of Sports" and the women's long program in prime time at 8 p.m., both on Channel 2.
ABC promises a feature on Scott Davis during the afternoon session, and a piece on the Kwan sisters, Michelle and Karen, in the evening, as well as the 1 millionth look at the Nancy Kerrigan flap.
Why us? Why us?
On that subject, one-year reminiscences of the 1994 Winter Olympics are in vogue for the weekend. CBS' "Lillehammer: An Olympic Diary" (2 p.m. tomorrow, Channel 13) looks at things through a primarily American view, and the second part of Bud Greenspan's "Lillehammer '94: 16 Days of Glory" documentary has a more universal scope, as it airs on the Disney Channel on Sunday at 9 p.m.
Three college basketball teams from the state find their way to television tomorrow, with Loyola meeting Canisius at Reitz Arena on ESPN2 (sorry, city residents) at 11:30 a.m., Maryland playing host to Florida State on Channel 54 at 1:30 p.m., and UMES rolling out the welcome mat to Delaware State on Home Team Sports at 2 p.m.
The Baltimore Arena will get plenty of television exposure this weekend. The Thunder plays Rochester tomorrow at 2 p.m. on ESPN, and a World Championship Wrestling event down at our Baltimore Street palace is on pay per view at 7 p.m. Sunday.
Hizzoner goes to videotape
That was some performance Wednesday night as the Honorable Kurt L. Schmoke, mayor of our fair city, took to the airwaves as guest sportscaster on Channel 11's late news, subbing for Gerry Sandusky.
Let's just say the mayor didn't inspire any comparisons with any of the "SportsCenter" crew, but Schmoke was engaging, and his theme of gently knocking other cities as he narrated highlights and read scores was pretty amusing.
There's no truth to the rumor, however, that City Council president and mayoral contender Mary Pat Clarke is after weatherman Tom Tasselmyer's scalp.