'Access' to profile top basketball players

NEW YORK — Candid profiles of basketball stars such as Shaquille O’Neal and Richard Jefferson will be featured in “NBA Access with Ahmad Rashad,” a new series hosted by Ahmad Rashad that kicks off next month on ABC.

“Our cameras will seek out players in the locker room and as they’re driving their cars,” said Rashad, who’ll also be exec producer of “NBA Access.” “This won’t be your standard basketball interview show. It’ll be more like a reality-based series” that will steer clear of the one-on-one studio interviews available all over the dial, he added.

Rashad said the half-hour series, produced by NBA Entertainment, will run on ABC every Saturday afternoon. The exact time period is not firmed up, but he said the goal is to keep the show from being preempted by ABC’s live sports events on Saturday.

“NBA Access” will replace the show Rashad hosted and produced for 16 seasons, “NBA Inside Stuff,” which will shift over to NBA TV on Jan. 29 in the network’s Sunday kids programming block from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Rashad will bow out of “Inside Stuff,” handing over the reins to his longtime co-host Summer Sanders, who becomes sole host.

Rashad said he expects to do two or three stories in each edition of “NBA Access.” The show will go behind the scenes with the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets throughout the season, scheduling regular reports on the show. The production schedule, he said, calls for 32 original half-hours in 2006, with reruns restricted to the NBA’s off-season from mid-June through early November.

Other “NBA Access” subjects include Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony; Magic forward Dwight Howard; Hornets point guard Chris Paul; Suns coach Mike D’Antoni; and a team cheerleader who’s studying to become a dentist.

Rashad will continue to report on lifestyle features for ABC and ESPN during the NBA season and do in-studio reporting for the show preceding weekend game telecasts on ABC.

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