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Offense settles NBA title score, says NBC's Jones

THE BALTIMORE SUN

How many times have you heard a coach or a commentator trot out the phrase, "Defense wins championships?"

If you've heard it once, that's once too many for Steve Jones' liking.

"These things are bandied about by experts and the media because it's an easy hook, but the fact of the matter is that offense wins championships. Not enough credit is given to the great offensive players," said Jones, an NBA analyst for NBC. "The reality is that the special offensive players are special for a reason. A coach cannot tell a player who can't play offense to play offense."

To Jones' way of thinking, it's the clubs that have those special offensive players that proceed through the grueling two-month playoff process, not the ones that just play great defense.

"The easier you score, the more you can become aggressive on defense and the more you can take chances on defense, because you can make up for it on the offensive end," said Jones.

"When we talk about [Hakeem] Olajuwon, or [Michael] Jordan, we talk about their greatness, because, time and time again, they have demonstrated the ability to score when they need to."

The other important component that distinguishes champions, according to Jones -- who had a nine-year pro career, eight of those in the American Basketball Association -- is desire.

"The most talented team in the NBA, without question, is the Orlando Magic, but if you put them out on the floor in the Eastern Conference finals with Chicago, have they arrived on the planet where the word is domination?" said Jones. "If Orlando can match Chicago's will to win, they should win because they have the most talent."

Nights on frozen pond

The NHL's conference semifinals begin tonight with the Florida Panthers meeting the Philadelphia Flyers in the East on ESPN at 7: 30, and the Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche locking up in the West on ESPN2 at 9.

ESPN analyst Barry Melrose is picking the Blackhawks to advance if "they play very physically, attack the front of [goalie] Patrick Roy and win those battles in front." In the East series, the former Los Angeles Kings coach likes the Flyers in a "hard-fought physical series."

And speaking of hard fought and physical, what exactly was the point of that 1 1/2 -minute paean to hockey violence that ran on the overnight "SportsCenter" the other night?

At a time when the NHL is trying to downplay the rough stuff in the game, ESPN aired a montage of savage but mostly legal hits from the first round of the playoffs. Seems like a funny way to sell a sport.

Tonight's NBA playoff scene

The Turner networks have the fourth games of three NBA series tonight, with a TNT doubleheader, commencing with the Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks at 7, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets at 9: 30. On TBS, the Seattle SuperSonics meet the Sacramento Kings at 10: 30.

Bornstein in the vanguard

The National Cable Television Association presented its 1996 Vanguard Award, the cable industry's highest honor, to ESPN president and CEO Steve Bornstein at its annual convention this week.

Bornstein, who recently was named to similar duties with ABC Sports, has guided ESPN's remarkable expansion, including the creation of ESPN2 and ESPN International, as well as forays into on-line services, radio and pay-per-view, since taking over the company in 1990.

Pub Date: 5/02/96

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