Nessler, Walton nabbed as 'lead duo' for NBA

Charles Barkley has signed a new contract with Turner Sports that will expand his role as a let-it-all-hang-out opinion monger.

With the new deal, Barkley will add a weekly stint on CNN’s “Talkback Live” to his ongoing duties as the studio gadfly on the nights when TNT schedules National Basketball Assn. games. CNN and TNT are both divisions of AOL Time Warner.

During the past two seasons, Barkley would, on occasion, go well beyond unvarnished critiques of NBA players and teams to sometimes explosive commentary on issues ranging from racism to poverty. The CNN appearances will give him a more appropriate forum for his views unrelated to basketball.

In a Thursday conference call with reporters, Barkley said he regards himself as neither a left-wing nor a right-wing ideologue. “You don’t have to be a Republican or a Democrat,” he said, “to know that it’s wrong for a Catholic priest to have sex with kids.”

NBC duo travel

Earlier in the day, ESPN/ABC Sports said that it has chosen Brad Nessler and Bill Walton as its “lead duo” for on-air coverage of NBA games, which ESPN and ABC will begin in late October. The two networks outbid NBC for shared TV-coverage rights to both regular-season and post-season games with Turner’s TNT.

The backup pair of NBA announcers for ESPN and ABC is Mike Trico and Tom Tolbert, who will also co-host studio coverage by the two networks. Nessler and Trico are both veteran ESPN/ABC sports announcers. Walton and Tolbert provided basketball commentary for NBC last year.

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