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Christmas Coming Early for NBA Fans This Year

One year after a work stoppage shortened the season, National Basketball Association fans are again ready for some pre-Christmas hoops, and so is ESPN’s lead NBA play-by-play announcer, Mike Breen. He spoke with B&C contributing editor Tim Baysinger about whether fans will ever forgive LeBron James for “The Decision,” if “Linsanity” will translate in Houston and yes—Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. An edited transcript follows.

What are some of the story lines that you are looking forward to seeing play out this year?

Well, I think it starts with the Lakers and how good they can be. When you add guys like Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, I mean, they are two of the premier players in the game, two of the premier players at their positions. When you add them to what is already there, they’ve got scary potential for the opponents.

Do you think now that LeBron has a ring, his time as the league’s “villain” is over?

Hopefully it’s over. I think for the majority of the people it’s over. There will be some, and you certainly can understand the sentiment in Cleveland, that they probably would still consider him “Villain No. 1.” But I think even those who really had disdain for the way he handled the situation [“The Decision”], have to appreciate what kind of player he is. And just because he had a really bad idea for a press conference, people started to hate him. I hope that it dies down, and we can appreciate watching him for the kind of player that he is.

Who would now take LeBron’s mantle as the most-scrutinized player?

I think Dwight Howard is going to be scrutinized quite a bit. No. 1, to see how he fits in with the Lakers, and No. 2, because he didn’t handle his free agency situation well at all. He has a lot of people who are down on him, certainly in Orlando. I think he might take that [role], but nothing is going to come close [to what James experienced].

You had a front-row seat for “Linsanity” last year. Do you think now that Jeremy Lin is in Houston and not New York, he’ll have the same draw with viewers?

I think internationally he will, but I don’t think amongst NBA fans in the U.S., it will be as much. The fact that it was in New York, on the Knicks, I think fueled a lot of it. That’s not to say it wasn’t one of the most unbelievable stories that I’ve seen in 20 years covering the NBA. It was just incredible; it was rock-star status. But I think the fact that it was in New York did play a part in it. I think because Houston is not going to be a team that contends—they’re a really young team; they’re in rebuilding mode bigtime— because of that, [Lin] won’t be as much of a story with NBA fans.

Do you think that with the NHL lockout, some hockey fans who didn’t previously watch the NBA will give it a try?

I don’t know about that. I think there might be a handful, but I don’t think it’s going to have a big impact. Plus, I’m hopeful they get back to work. I feel for all peripheral people that are hurt by it.

You don’t have a Twitter account. Do you ever plan to?

I’m going to fight it for as long as I can, but it might be a losing battle. Nobody has any interest in my thoughts, that’s part of it—and my kids would agree.

What TV shows do you watch? What sits on your DVR?

I don’t watch a lot of television shows. I’m a crazy movie fan. I just love watching old classics and going to the movies. I recently saw Argo, and it was fantastic. I’m into the HBO stuff like Band of Brothers, The Sopranos, [and FX’s] The Shield. One show that I do watch, because I get to watch it as a family, is Modern Family. I think that show is hilarious. That’s the one we kind of try and make sure we see.

Are there any shows that you wish you had gotten into?

Homeland. Everybody is telling me that I have to go watch Homeland. I’ve got to go get the first season.

Mike, everyone wants to know, what are your thoughts on the whole Honey Boo Boo craze?

[Laughs] My wife and my daughter were telling me about it: “You have to see this.” I’m like, “There’s no way that I am going to watch it.” And then one night, I was just going through the channels, and there pops up Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. You can’t turn away. A half-hour later, I’m still watching it and they both come in and absolutely made fun of me. I think that one 30-minute sample was more than enough for me.

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