Some quick observations from three nights of NBC's coverage of the NBA championship series.
* The three-man booth with Marv Albert, Matt Guokas and Bill Walton is working far better in this series than it did in the Western Conference telecasts, because Guokas and Walton aren't just arguing for the sake of arguing, as it seemed Walton and Steve Jones were doing out West.
And while Walton has made the more outrageous statements, Guokas has been quietly superb so far, with intelligent analysis of play on both sides of the ball.
* Whichever Houston Rockets employee came up with the inspired idea to serenade the Orlando starters with "It's A Small World" during the starting lineups should get a hefty raise.
* Each telecast further exposes Ahmad Rashad's inherent weakness as a sideline reporter. Hannah Storm, assigned to the Houston bench, has led off each night with some fairly interesting nugget of news, usually about an injury to a Rockets player or on strategy.
Rashad, meanwhile, has provided only trivialities from the Orlando side, from Horace Grant presenting his three championship rings to his teammates before Game 1, to Nick Anderson's personal struggles after missing four free throws near the end of regulation of the series opener at the top of Game 2 and last night's inane report from Anfernee Hardaway. Rashad is out of his element here, and the brilliant Jim Gray would be a welcome replacement.
* Gray, however, stumbled last night in his first significant airtime of the series during a profile of Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich. Gray asked why Rudy T. doesn't get the respect of more heralded coaches even with a championship under his belt, but didn't ask or even mention Tomjanovich's arrest on drunken driving charges after last year's playoffs, which might have some small bearing on why folks might not view him in the same light as say, Larry Brown or Pat Riley.
* There will be more on the Hollywoodization of the NBA through television later this week, but there was absolutely no excuse for NBC to forgo halftime analysis from Julius Erving and Peter Vecsey last night for Tom Hanks to get about three minutes of free network airtime to plug his new movie. NBC further compounded the outrage by having Rashad interview director Ron Howard. It doesn't get more trivial or shameful than this.
CFL deal for HTS
The Baltimore Football Club and Home Team Sports have reached agreement on a three-game package that varies from the slate carried last year by the Bethesda-based regional cable channel.
For one thing, all three of the games -- San Antonio (July 9), Birmingham (Sept. 10) and Shreveport (Sept. 24) -- will air on a one-day delayed basis to protect the home gate.
Also, unlike last season, when the club paid HTS for airtime to carry games, no money will change hands between the parties, and HTS will produce the games itself rather than take feeds from other networks.
HTS will produce a weekly 30-minute coaches show, and will rebroadcast the Grey Cup on July 14.
New pact for ESPN, A-10
The newly expanded Atlantic 10 Conference and ESPN are simpatico on a contract similar to those the network has struck TC with other conferences that give ESPN both exclusive cable rights and national broadcast rights.
Under the deal, which runs through the 2000-2001 season, ESPN will carry a weekly Saturday afternoon men's game, as well as interconference matches and the league title game. ESPN2 will have a Monday night game of the week, three quarterfinal games in the men's tournament and the women's championship game.