WatchDog: The best of Neil Best

From left, MSG Network's Knicks post-game show with From left, MSG Network's Knicks post-game show with Bill Pidto, Alan Hahn and Wally Szczerbiak in the MSG Network studio on Oct. 11, 2012. Photo Credit: MSG

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. ...

MSG takes on 'Wally's World'

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When a knee injury put an end to Wally Szczerbiak's 10-year NBA career in 2009, he was content to work a limited schedule talking college basketball for CBS' cable sports outlet.

At the time, his three children were less than 8 years old, so there was plenty to keep him and his wife, Shannon, busy at home in Cold Spring Harbor, near where he starred in high school.

Starting Friday, though, Szczerbiak dove thoroughly into his second career, as a full-time Knicks studio analyst for MSG, replacing Kelly Tripucka opposite Alan Hahn.

"When you retire, you kind of take a few years to figure things out,'' said Szczerbiak, an NBA All-Star in 2002 for the Timberwolves. "When this opportunity arose, it was a perfect fit.''

Szczerbiak, 35, a former Miami of Ohio star, is looking forward to talking about pros because he is not far removed from his NBA days.

"I played against all of these guys,'' said Szcerbiak, who also had high-profile teammates, including LeBron James with the Cavaliers.

The 6-7 Szczerbiak and 6-6 Hahn go way back, from participating in pickup games at C.W. Post (where Hahn played) to having Hahn write about him in Newsday.

"He can definitely play,'' Szczerbiak said. (Personal testimony: I was an eyewitness to a Hahn dunk after a Knicks practice in Boston last year.)

Now all that matters, though, is how well the two of them talk.

 

Fans have new app to yap

Never before in the history of Earth has it been so easy for sports fans to share their opinions publicly -- insightful, moronic and everywhere between.

So we begin with an obvious question for Eric Goldstein, an Islanders fan who grew up in Great Neck and is co-founder of an aptly named app called "SportsYapper:'' Why?

"We were saying it's crazy that in social media, where it's becoming this global phenomenon and you are seeing apps that cater to specific interests, how is there not social media just for sports fans?'' Goldstein said.

Didn't God create Twitter for that purpose? Goldstein said the problem with Twitter is that if, say, one is inclined to post frequent observations about an ongoing Islanders game, one's non-Islanders-fan followers quickly grow irritated.

What about old-fashioned message boards? Goldstein said they do not allow for conversations with defined groups of friends.

It will be difficult to break through the digital clutter, but the service has advertised heavily, its partners include the Yankees' Mark Teixeira, and the Islanders signed up as the site's first team partner.

"Like you had Sports Illustrated for magazines, then ESPN for TV, there is going to be a brand that owns social media for sports, and we can do it,'' Goldstein said. "We should do it.''

 

Greenberg adjusts to Team ESPN

For the first time since he started coaching at Columbia in 1978, Seth Greenberg is a man without a team.

"It's going to be an adjustment, no doubt about it,'' said Greenberg, whom Virginia Tech fired as its coach in April.

But as much as he enjoyed coaching, he knows there are benefits to being a studio analyst for ESPN rather than on a basketball bench.

"At the end of the night, I have no home visits, and at the end of the night, I don't have to concern myself with a win or a loss,'' he said.

Greenberg, 56, has not lived on Long Island since leaving Plainview for Fairleigh Dickinson, where he majored in broadcast journalism, but he still has the accent and outgoing personality to match his roots.

He seems to be a TV natural, and has demonstrated his commitment by moving to Avon, Conn., to be near ESPN's Bristol headquarters. "I'm both feet in,'' he said.

It remains to be seen whether he can stay away from the coaching rush, but for now: "I don't want to just do this, I want to be good at it. I've been under that microscope for 35 years. I'm going to have some fun with this.''

 

ESPN looks to match TNT chemistry

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ESPN has added Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons to its NBA studio show, its latest attempt to replicate the chemistry that has made TNT's version a long-running hit.

The Bristol Stompers' newcomers are not shy about the task.

"Looking forward to the opportunity to compete with the best,'' Rose said. "They've set the bar. We're fans of their show. I'm fans of Charles [Barkley], Shaq [O'Neal], Kenny [Smith] and Ernie [Johnson].

"We all want to have the tuxedo and white shirt on Emmy night. Hopefully, we put ourselves in that position by gaining the respect of the fans and putting out quality content that everyone enjoys.''

Said Simmons: "I agree. I think Charles is the best studio analyst of all time in any sport. For us, the key is, can people look forward to this show the same way Jalen and I look forward to Thursday nights with TNT? If they have a doubleheader, I'm excited.''

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