Is there any truth to the rumor Charles Barkley will be moving to TNT’s new hockey desk and Keith Jones has been invited to join Shaq and Kenny the Jet on “Inside the NBA?’’
Only time will tell.
But seriously folks, while Charles might be not only entertaining but well versed on a variety of sports, he’s probably better off sticking to what he knows best, which is why they used to call him the “Mound Round of Rebound.’’
We joke here but anything’s possible given TNT’s recent contract signing to be sort of ESPN’s little brother in the NHL’s next television broadcast era.
That will signal the end of a 15-year run for NBC, which did a great job – led by former Flyers’ play-by-play man Mike “Doc’’ Emrick.
Jones, who juggles three careers at once – chief studio analyst for NBC national network games, color man alongside Jim Jackson for Flyers’ TV games and funnyman on WIP’s morning show with Angelo Cataldi, Al Morganti and Rhea Hughes – isn’t sure what the future holds.
No doubt if ESPN or TNT asked him to come aboard, he would have to consider an offer.
But because he’s still an NBC employee and has to finish out this season, it doesn’t sound like he wants to speculate about what lies ahead.
“I don’t know how it all works,’’ Jones said during a telephone conversation. “You have to go all the way through to the Stanley Cup Final and until they raise the Cup, we’re working for NBC.
“But you never know.’’
One thing that won’t change is Jones’ love of Philadelphia. He makes it clear he will maintain his South Jersey residence and plans to continue his work on local television and radio regardless of what might pop up on the national radar.
“I love it here in Philadelphia and this is my home,’’ he said. “I’m very happy that I kept my ties here.’’
Regardless of how this all plays out, Jones will continue to maintain a frenetic work schedule.
Personally, I’ve seen Jones climb into a private car with a paid driver after a playoff night game in Pittsburgh and make it back in time to hit the WIP studio by the opening bell at 6 a.m.
“It doesn’t matter to me,’’ he said of the challenging work hours. “I love doing whatever I’m asked to do. I love being involved with hockey, love being involved with sports.
“I just feel very blessed that I’ve had so many great opportunities since I retired (2001).’’
The 52-year-old Jones has that rare ability to combine humor with sports. This comes through in the morning radio show, regardless of which sport is the topic of the moment.
“The beautiful thing about WIP and working with Angelo is it’s awesome when we’re on the air and it’s even more fun when we’re off the air at the breaks,’’ Jones said with a chuckle.
“I think that’s a big part of being a part of any show. . .it’s awesome but it’s about all the other things that go on behind the scenes that make it all about the teamwork that comes through when the mikes are on and is developed when the mikes are on. Those great moments are at the break.’’
Jones says his comedy act actually began in his youth.
“I enjoy making people laugh, without offending somebody at their expense,’’ Jones said. “I enjoy laughing at myself. So far that’s served me well.
“I never thought I would get paid to do something like that. It’s remarkable. I was a kid who always had a smirk or a smile. I always saw the lighter side of things in life until it gets serious and then you deal with it. It’s a balance and so far it’s worked out pretty well.’’
Also, as a young hockey player, he found he could use that gift of gab to get under the skin of opponents.
“I just developed a niche with it,’’ he explained. “In order to stay on the top line, which I often found myself remarkably on – my job was to distract and take away attention from the two superstars (Eric Lindros, John LeClair) I was playing with.’’
Jones had just enough hockey talent to strike a balance. There was a 23-goal season with the Colorado Avalanche along with two 100-plus penalty-minute seasons as well.
“It was all being part of a team,’’ he said. “I pass that advice on to anybody in any walk of life. Just be part of the team, individual success will follow.’’
Clearly, ESPN and TNT have their work cut out for them as far as bringing in broadcast booth and studio talent to make the transition a smooth one.
“I’m sure they will find great people,’’ Jones said. “They’ve both been in sports so long. It’s not like they’re not familiar with what makes great shows.
“Hockey will be in a good place. The game is the most important thing. That is what matters. The games are still entertaining without fans in the stands. It’s amazing how hockey has not only survived but thrived on the TV deals through what’s been the most difficult times (the pandemic) of our lives.’’
Jones said he’s always been a hockey fan and when he played the game would watch it on off-nights with some guys named Berube, Tocchet and Brind’Amour.
“It’s not surprising those guys have gone on to have outstanding post-careers,’’ Jones said.
We would be remiss if we didn’t ask Jones what went wrong with the team he covers in Philadelphia.
“I’m surprised by it,’’ Jones said. “But I think the biggest issue is they have three good coaches and they didn’t have a chance to get things right in practice.
“The one thing I noticed last year right from the start of training camp is they ran a practice I was extremely impressed by. The team practiced like they played, with energy and a ton of emotion. It was preparation and that’s been taken away from them this year.’’
So stick with the current cast of characters?
“It’s obviously correctible,’’ Jones said. “It makes me confident that things will turn around quickly with a few minor adjustments.’’