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A New Voice in Lakerland?

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According to Larry Stewart in today's Los Angeles Times, the Lakers may not renew Paul Sunderland's contract. While Paul Sunderland is a real trooper who's fortunate to have his dream job, LAist is hardly surprised. Los Angeles has extremely high standards for its sports announcers as evidenced by Vin Scully, Bob Miller, Ralph Lawler, and the late-Chick Hearn. It's almost impossible for anyone to follow Chick Hearn, and Sunderland simply isn't up to the task.

A former volleyball player, Sunderland's voice lacks the inflexion and cadence of today's top broadcasters. He masked this on TV by using a more narrative style when he worked for NBC, and came across the air as average, but professional. With the Lakers, he was immediately asked to do a simulcast, which is incredibly difficult for Marv Albert, let alone Paul Sunderland. Without the skills to pull it off, Sunderland struggled mightily as he tried to sound like Hearn while lacking the speedy delivery and quick wit of his predecessor.

The Lakers wisely stopped simulcasting games last year and switched Sunderland and Stu Lantz to TV exclusively. However, Sunderland still attempts to mimic Chick Hearn with little success. He'd be better off just trying to be Paul Sunderland, and settling down, but instead (and maybe I'm on the only one who thinks this) he comes across more like Super Dave Osborne. His flow is choppy. His energy level is inconsistent. And his confidence is occasionally missing. Sunderland works well as a studio host, a sideline reporter, and an occasional TV play-by-play announcer, but he's not up to snuff in this town.

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As for his replacement (if Sunderland doesn't stay), the Lakers missed out on a chance to get Marv Albert, who recently signed a deal to join the Nets. That might give an opportunity to Ian Eagle, who's well-respected for his Nets work on YES and his national broadcasts on CBS. The Lakers could also look inward and promote their radio play-by-play announcer Joel Myers, who's an experienced veteran, and probably better than Sunderland. Ideally, we'd like the Lakers to hire local-resident Al Michaels, who was Chick Hearn's sidekick for about 8 games at the start of his career about 35 years ago. But Michaels has enough on his plate, and probably wouldn't want to leave. With XTRA Sports airing Laker games now, LAist would love to see Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton utilize his talents on Lakers basketball, provided he keeps his mouth in check. Also, if there's any way that the Lakers could hire Kevin Harlan full-time, they should do it. If the Lakers new is hire is a really big name, he might only wind up doing 50 games or so, and a different broadcaster would be used for another 30 games. Perhaps a Harlan plus Myers combination would work. Could Bob Miller do basketball?

Whatever they do, LAist thinks it's time to take Sunderland off of the play-by-play.