The news arrived suddenly and unexpectedly: The Portland Trail Blazers had terminated the contracts of their long-time television announcing team, Mike Barrett and Mike Rice, along with radio commentator Antonio Harvey. For the first day, it hit the fan base like a shock wave; many disagreed about the quality of the broadcast, but for nearly everyone, they'd become family. It’ll be a while before everyone adjusts to the change.
But alas, it's time to talk about the big follow-up question. Who’s going to replace them? We already have some ideas. In recent interviews, Blazers CEO Chris McGowan said they wanted a team with professional NBA veterans who can bring a fresh voice to the team. There were also hints that a Portland (or Northwest) link would be preferred if possible.
So who can possibly replace the duo who slowly became uncle figures for every Blazer fan? Let’s talk about some possible names. This is pure speculation - none of these people have been linked to either job.
- Kevin Calabro. Let’s be honest: This is the man on everyone’s mind. Calabro was the voice of the Seattle Supersonics for 21 years, until their infamous move to Oklahoma City. Calabro refused to move with the team, thereby cementing his spot in Pacific Northwest lore. Calabro does work for a number of national broadcasts, and may be a tough "get." But maybe he wants to work close to home. Perhaps if the offer is good enough, he can be lured back to the northwest. This would be a win-win signing, because if the Blazers want to make inroads into the Seattle market, having a local legend on the mic could smooth the process. Based on early fan reaction, he might be options 1, 2, and 3 for the Blazers.
- Ryan Ruocco. McGowan has been looking for experienced NBA play-by-play announcers, but it’s hard to pull good ones from their current position. Ruocco is an interesting case: He’s the secondary play-by-play man in Brooklyn, and only announces games when the primary (Ian Eagle) is unavailable. He’s a smart, experienced professional, and might be interested in being lured away for a full 82 games with a franchise who wants a new voice.
- John Strong. An unusual idea: Could the Blazers poach a local talent who is known to the younger generation in Portland? Strong, a former Oregon Sports Broadcaster of the Year, has been the voice of the Portland Timbers, as well as the head of national soccer coverage and the NBA on Fox. He only did basketball announcing early in his career, and would seem to be an unlikely choice. But he has a strong northwest connection, and Bill Schonely came to Portland after announcing baseball, professional wrestling and roller derbies. Anything is possible.
- Steve "Snapper" Jones. No discussion of color commentators can commence without the word "Snapper" appearing. But at age 74 by the start of the season, Jones seems unlikely to return for a full-season grind again. The Blazers seem to want a new name, not a former commentator, regardless of popularity.
- Bill Walton. Another required name. Finally on good terms with the Blazers after many years, Walton could adjust his infamous trademark phrases for local broadcasts ("Throw it in the hole, big Mason!"). With Walton as a local legend, the possibility can’t be ruled out. But it feels like Walton can stay in an ambassador role with the Blazers, and enjoy his semi-retirement.
- Clyde Drexler. I’ve heard the Houston Rockets broadcast. Next.
- Steve Smith. Now we’re talking. Smith, a regular on NBA TV, has become as effective a commentator as he was a shooter. Still a local legend after his years playing in Portland, he'd need to be willing to leave a national TV gig to go on the road with the Blazers. It’s not impossible, but it would take a big sell from the Blazers. He’d be a great "get" for Portland.
- Mychal Thompson. Portland Tribune writer Kerry Eggers brought up the idea of a Calabro/Thompson pairing in his latest article (worth your time). And for good reason, the two could make a memorable duo for years to come.
- Greg Anthony. The former Blazers backup point guard has found success in announcing, working with ESPN, CBS, and YES Sports covering the Brooklyn Nets. The Blazers might actually be a step backward in some ways, but a steady gig in familiar surroundings could be in his interests.
- "... and the rest!". There are plenty of color commentators with Blazer roots who could be interested in returning to Portland. Alaa Abdelnaby, currently doing color for the Sixers, could regale local fans with stories from the ‘90s. Former Blazers head coach P.J. Carlesimo could regale local fans with stories they’d rather forget. And while he has no experience, it’s nearly required to mention Blazers legend
, who does regular call-in hosting stints with sports radio in Seattle. And heck, has anyone seen Rick Adelman lately?
Your turn. Which names get your attention? What names are missing? Who do you hope will become the "new voice of the Blazers"? Give your thoughts in the comments below.