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Mailbag: Kevin Calabro and Lamar Hurd

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How to rate Portland’s new broadcast duo as their first Trail Blazers season draws to a close.

Kevin Calabro
Kevin Calabro introduces a game for Fox Sports.
Getty Pictures

In today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag we divert from straight basketball analysis to discuss one of the recurrent topics surrounding the Portland Trail Blazers this season: their new broadcast crew of Kevin Calabro and Lamar Hurd.

Hello Dave.

With more than half of the season under our belts, I am wondering how you would rate/rank our new TV crew of Calabro and Hurd vs old Mike/Mike. Also interested to hear how they measure up against other teams and national TV broadcast crews. There are many things I dislike about them (regular player name screw-ups, overly positive spin, lack of interesting insight/commentary, lame jokes followed by fake laughs, disingenuous sounding emphasis, etc.) but that may be just me.

Wondering how you would rate them and whether you can persuade me to turn the volume back up during Blazers broadcasts.

Ramon

As a League Pass guy, I get to listen to all the broadcast crews throughout the year. I make a concerted effort to switch up broadcasts, seeing if I can pick up any new insights or get the temperature of an opponent the Blazers might play again. It’s kind of like a buffet...some things are great, others awful. It’s usually worth trying. As with any buffet, broadcasting is a matter of personal taste. There’s no guarantee that what I like is what you’ll like also.

I’m not that keen on making comparisons between Portland’s old broadcast crew and the new one. Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses. Whenever a shift like this is made after a long tenure, it’s all but guaranteed that sentiment will run towards the familiar instead of the recent. Accepting any change takes a couple years. That doesn’t mean you’ll ever like the new guys as well as the old guys; it just takes that long to compare them on actual merits instead of, “They don’t do things the same...”

It’s interesting that you cite “overly positive spin” as one of the critiques of the Calabro-Hurd duo. Earlier in the season, the complaints mostly ran the other way. They were termed “impersonal” and “not enthusiastic”. It’s possible that Portland’s recent upswing in play has contributed to the positive spin. Objectively, there wasn’t that much to be positive about before the All-Star break. The broadcasters may be taking their chance while they’ve got it, uplifting the good to make up for the critiques they had to offer earlier. It’s also possible that they heard the complaints and are attempting to find a new balance. Either way, I haven’t found the positive vibes overwhelming.

I also find the analysis in typical Blazers broadcasts pretty solid, especially when compared to the output of the average crew around the league. “Tommy Points” and rhyming things are nice gimmicks, but every once in a while you realize that it’s been a while since you actually learned anything from those popular personalities. The gimmick has become its own thing, almost disconnected from the game. (“I’d buy that for a dollar!”) I’ve heard Calabro and Hurd discuss screens, rebounding...facets of the game that highlight reels don’t cover. It’s not all the time; teaching is not their primary job. But you can pick up a nugget or two in Portland that you don’t get elsewhere.

If the broadcast sounds a little more detached and slick than you’re used to, I suspect that was the design. As soon as the new duo was announced last summer I made the following observation on our podcast (paraphrased): “They’re going to be good, but the Blazers are also going for more of a national look and sound...a big city show. People around the nation will be able to accept it better but we’ll see how it plays in provincial Portland.” Calabro and Hurd rate well compared to most broadcast crews around the league. Even with the occasional flub, they’re at the upper end of the professionalism spectrum. If you’re looking for more of a down-home, distinctively Blazers feel, that’s not their bag. The mistaken name and city identifications only underscore that point.

Some of that local-relationship vibe will develop over time...another reason to wait a season or two before judging firmly. But Blazers fans will also have to accept that Calabro calling games in Portland is akin to Bill Schonely calling them in Seattle. It’s going to be a good broadcast, but never quite native. They belong somewhere else. For many, polish and generally solid viewpoints will make up for that. For others, no appeal to the head will make up for the small empty space in the heart. That’s fine, but we’d also have to admit that short of going backwards, there are no broadcasters out there who will fill that hole immediately. Anybody sitting in those seats will take time to develop an organic and meaningful relationship. Since time is a necessity, we might as well spend it now with the broadcast crew we’ve got, trying to accentuate their positives and learn from their new perspective. Maybe you think it could be better, but it could also be worse.

Keep those Mailbag questions coming to blazersub@gmail.com!

—Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @Blazersedge / @DaveDeckard