One of the most common things I hear from someone who sees the Fire Jon Barry movement for the first time is some variation on “I don’t know what happened to Jon Barry, Brent Barry is so great.” I couldn’t agree more. Bones is the man. He is a great studio analyst for NBATv, providing some humor, and a ton of insight on the set. I was psyched that he was going to call a game, replacing Reggie Miller, which is like opening what you think is a Comcast bill and getting a reimbursement check instead.
I thought it would be interesting to do a broadcast breakdown on Brent’s season debut calling the Mavs Clips tilt. I have previously broken down what I think makes an analyst great, as well as some alternatives to Jon Barry which ESPN should consider. Going deep on an analyst besides Jon Barry seemed like a logical next step. The fact that it’s his bro makes it even better.
I am glad I decided to take this on, because I was blown away by how great Brent Barry was calling this game. He is literally the polar opposite from Jon Barry. I could have recorded and broken down a clip of almost every single thing he said, as he was consistently providing excellent insight. (I have noted in the past that it is generally possible to do this for Jon Barry as well, except, in his case, everything he says sucks). Bones is funny, insightful, opinionated, a solid communicator, and he was clearly very well prepared. Let’s look at the tape.
Brent Barry gets off to a strong start. First he talks about the Mavs being a team that has some vets who know what it take to make the playoffs. “If you want to be in the playoffs, you are going to have to go out and get it.” As a Cavs fan, this analysis hits home, lol. I also loved that he picked out the Jose Calderon vs. Chris Paul matchup when Harlan asked him what matchup he was looking at for the night as being important. You can guarantee that Jon Barry would have looked at that matchup lineup and talked about Blake Griffin and Dirk Nowitzki, and then babbled some annoying nonsense. He talks about Dirk being close to the 50 40 90 Club number again this year. Just excellent, natural, well-prepared stuff.
Having spent so much time watching Jon Barry broadcasts, it was literally shocking to hear insightful analysis from Bones right off the bat. Blake gets the ball on the low post, with Dalembert on his back, and steps out to create some space. “Blake Griffin great move to recognize the space and get the shot off over the shot blocker” Bones throws in a statistic to boot “Leading the league in scoring in the first quarter.”
Here we have Kevin Harlan going to get the papers get the papers, “When Dalembert gets it going, this Dallas team is a different ballclub.” Bones drops a “Interesting you had to say that twice. Carlisle sometimes has to say it 3 or 4 times.” Funny stuff.
One of the many notably horrendous things I have noticed about Jon Barry’s piss-poor work as an analyst is it really doesn’t seem like he watches any basketball unless he calls the game. Brent is clearly much more plugged into the game. Here he offers some insight into Chris Paul, talking about how he is becoming more aggressive late in the season, particularly in the last five games. ”As of late, seems like he is getting in playoff mode… He builds the confidence of the players around him, and then he knows when to take over the basketball game.”
Here we have Blake driving in on Dirk for an easy dunk. Dirk waves politely at him, giving a little jazz hands defense. Bones is right on top of why, pointing out that Dirk doesn’t want to get in foul trouble. “Already one personal foul in the ballgame, doesn’t want to pick up his second.”
I have also noted that the “going into the break” scenario for Jon Barry usually results in some super annoying fake enthusiasm. Brent displays some muted but totally authentic enthusiasm. “It’s always nice to go to break with Blake Griffin.”
I know this is subjective/personal preference stuff, but Brent is just so much less annoying that Jon. It’s crazy.
Loved this moment in the broadcast. Harlan and Bones are talking about the return of Redick and what it means to the Clippers. Bones notes “Look at the movement off the ball, watch how he clears himself and allows space to open up all over the floor because of that movement.” The next time up the floor, I naturally watched Redick moving off the ball, as Brent pointed out to do so. Redick curls off a semi screen from Blake, gets the ball at the elbow, nothing there, resets it to CP, who then gets it down into Blake in the post, and then what Bones talked about happens. Redick moves about two steps to his left, giving Blake a clear path to get him the ball, forcing Monta Ellis to move to his right to prevent Redick from having an open shot, which opens Barnes up for a nice corner 3. That move two steps to the left is something I may not have noticed if Bones hadn’t pointed it out.
It is literally impossible to imagine any of this coming out of Jon Barry.
Next we have Bones talking about the bad angle that Brandan Wright takes, which results in a foul on Vince Carter. “Now on double teams you want to come on an angle. you want to come on at least where the offensive player doesn’t have great vision of where you are coming from. brandon wright was looking at blake and blake was looking at him like are you coming for real, because I’m just going to throw this to Deandre.” Harlan then prods Bones for more info on the angles. “The angles are created by player movement, the more you play with guys the more you understand where it is they like the ball. Sometimes if you are the ballhandler you can create that angle, and if you have a guy like Redick who moves around a lot, he’ll create it with his motion.” The angle is what Redick created in that previous play for the Barnes three. Love this stuff.
Big Baby Davis is so fat. Doesn’t have to do with Brent or Jon Barry, just thought it was worth noting.
Everyone agrees Blake Griffin is having an amazing season. I haven’t seen much analysis of why he is having such a great year, beyond “the impact that Doc has had.” The narrative about him usually stops there, as though Doc came in, said Ubuntu a couple times, and everyone just magically got better. Here we have Bones offering up some insight into what’s different in Blake’s game.
“Well I think it’s been really interesting to watch the evolution of Blake Griffin as a face-up player, rather than going back-to-the-basket, a lot of people think that he needs to play out of the post, and I think Doc has done a great job of playing him in the Karl Malone spot, which is basically from the left part of the free throw line to the corner of the floor where he can face up, he can dribble away, he can attack the rim, or makes a play on a double team, Doc’s done a great job of opening the eyes of Blake Griffin of what he can do and what he is capable of offensively when he is seeing the floor.”
This next segment actually made me laugh out loud. Twice.
First, the side-by-side of him and Sager, as youngsters and then present day. “Wow, it hasn’t gotten much better for either of us.”
Then, this, which is the best. “I did take the slam dunk trophy. Had a guy in San Antonio, who’s a good friend of mine, cut it in half. I use it as a chip and dip bowl and also as a Halloween candy dispenser. This is true. And Chris Webber asked me he said ‘Brent how could you do that?’ I said ‘What else am I going to do with it Webb? It’s a multipurpose thing now.’”
“Two and a half years of playing here with the Clippers, and then two and a half years of therapy afterwards.”
Nice feed from Blake Griffin who is drawing a double, to the cutting Deandre Jordan. Bones points out that Doc was saying this during the wired portion of the broadcast. “Deandre dive every time there is a double team.” That’s just good tv. First the wired segment which captures what Doc is telling the team, then Bones pointing it out in action.
More funny stuff. Kevin Harlan asks Brent if there is a better point guard in the league than Chris Paul. “Because we are doing this broadcast, no, Kevin.” Then he goes on to list why CP is good, and points out that he uses more energy than anyone who plays in the NBA on communicating with his teammates. Joke > interesting analysis. Repeat.
Very similar to the previous stuff about Blake, there is a strong narrative about the Dallas 4th quarter woes. Bones says “Some of it has to do with Dirk not being able to do some of the things he used to be able to do… We see less of him at the top of the key posting up and they play more through Monta Ellis and trust his decision-making, and maybe that’s impacting some of the fourth quarter woes that the Mavericks are going through.” Glad to see every analyst isn’t on board the “Monta Ellis Rejuvenation” revival tour.
Jon Barry doesn’t know what a pick and roll is. We contrast that to Bones, who does this, in his first broadcast, no less.
“We see this set for the Dallas Mavericks so often late in the game where they’ll bring Dirk Nowitzki up from the right side of the floor, get him to the pinch post area, or to the top for the pick and roll, and then let Monta Ellis use his speed and ‘play downhill’, as Doc Rivers said. It puts so much pressure on the defense to stop the penetration, if you move away from Dirk he can knock down the three, and if you don’t get in Monta’s way, he will get himself to the free throw line.”
Solid, insightful analysis. The type of thing that comes from preparation and a deep understanding of the game.
Dirk likes to operate on the left side. If you look at some of his field goal percentage numbers this year, on the right side of the floor he struggles, but, late in the game, that is where Rick Carlisle puts him with Monta Ellis. If Monta is not involved in the play, it’s going to be left side for Dirk operating in the post.
Much like it’s nigh on impossible to pick the dumbest thing Jon Barry says during a broadcast, it’s tough to pick the best thing that Bones shared in this one. This has to be close though. Shot charts to support the analysis below.
You can see the numbers back up Bones analysis for Dirk.
And here you can see why Carlisle may want Monta going to his right.
Another example of previous Bones analysis showing up to be true later in the game. Here we have Monta Ellis, with a 10 point lead and 2:42 left on the clock, pushing the ball up the court aggressively into the paint for no apparent reason. There were no numbers and certainly no reason to do anything other than milk the clock if there wasn’t a fast break opportunity. He turns the ball over, Collison gets fouled at the other end in transition and nearly makes the layup. “Now that’s Monta Ellis’ fault on that particular possession. Chris Paul, being aggressive, taking a stab back there. If Monta Ellis crosses halfcourt and just slows that possession down, uses a little bit more of the clock, they have the lead, show that patience, that possession for the Clippers doesn’t happen.” Not exactly shocking the Mavericks have difficulty holding onto leads in the 4th quarter with this happening frequently. They let the Clippers right back into the game, and barely held on to win.
This game was everything I am looking for in an NBA broadcast. It was fun to watch, I learned some things I didn’t know before, and I laughed. Three things that never happen when watching Jon Barry call a game. Get on it ESPN. Fire Jon, Hire Brent. Profit.