When the Warriors make their regular-season debut at Chase Center in October, there will be plenty of new faces, beginning with the team’s roster. The same will apply to their telecasts and radio broadcasts.
Kelenna Azubuike, a member of the “We Believe” Warriors of 2006-07, is joining the squad as an analyst working alongside longtime NBC Sports Bay Area play-by-man voice Bob Fitzgerald.
And, no, Jim Barnett is not retiring.
Barnett will return for his 35th season providing opinion and insights, but his medium will change. He is moving to the radio booth to team up with longtime radio voice Tim Roye on 95.7 FM The Game.
“I think it’s fantastic that I can continue working for the Warriors,” Barnett said Friday. “I’m very grateful for everything I’ve had over the years. Tim is a really good guy, and does a great job. I’m looking forward to it.”
It’s important to note that while Azubuike is moving into the seat Barnett occupied for 34 years, he owes a debt of gratitude to Barnett, who entered broadcasting nine years after his retirement in 1977.
“Jim was actually one of the first people I talked to when I was thinking about getting into broadcasting,” said Azubuike, who retired in 2012. “He actually connected me with NBC Sports Bay Area. If not for him, who knows where I’d be. So, I’m eternally grateful.”
Said Barnett: “I’m glad I was able to help him get into this profession. He’s very capable and he’s a class guy. There’s no one more deserving.”
Azubuike, 35, has spent the last four seasons mostly as a studio analyst at NBC Sports Bay Area while also occasionally providing analysis on radio alongside Roye.
“We think Kelenna is one of the bright, young stars in the broadcasting business,” Warriors president/COO Rick Welts said in a statement issued by the team. “He’s done an outstanding job the last few seasons as a member of our pre, halftime and post-game shows on NBC Sports Bay Area, and his familiarity with our team, our players and our fans dating back to the ‘We Believe’ days will serve him well in this new role.
“His presence will add a new dimension to our TV broadcasts, and we are thrilled with the addition.”
Though Azubuike’s style will differ a bit from that of Barnett – a natural, given the generational gap – one thing that won’t change is honesty and objectivity. Barnett was willing to criticize when the situation called for it, and Azubuike expects to do the same.
“I enjoy breaking down what I see and just reacting on the spot,” he said. “It is kind of whole new thing when compared with the studio. In the studio, we talk about what we think is going to happen (in Warriors Pregame), or our interpretation of what has happened (in Warriors Postgame). But when you’re doing color commentary, you’re reacting on the spot. It’s fun.”
Barnett, 75, has on numerous occasions worked with Roye on radio, usually in postseason games on national TV.
“I’ve had a great run of 34 years on TV,” Barnett said. “And now I’m going to work radio. It’s a natural for me and it’s a nice transition. I’m grateful that the Warriors are giving me a contract to do this.
“You know one of nicest things about working radio? You don’t have to put on makeup.”
Barnett’s continued involvement is sure to be embraced by fans, who have grown accustomed to his knowledgeable point of view and ability to articulate the nuances within the game.
“Jim has been a fixture on our broadcast team for over three decades and has served as a comforting and trusted voice for our fans during several different eras of Warriors basketball,” Welts said in the statement. “From Sleepy Floyd’s incredible playoff performance in 1987 to our most recent stretch that has included three championships and five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, his outstanding work has been an everyday staple on the airwaves.”
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Both Azubuike and Barnett will travel with the team for road games. Both also are scheduled to join Fitzgerald for the first telecast from Chase Center.
“A huge thank you to the NBC Sports Bay Area for preparing me for this,” said Azubuike, who has done color commentary for multiple media outlets. “And I’m grateful to the Warriors, to (co-owners) Joe Lacob and Peter Guber for giving me this opportunity.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m so pumped. The season can’t come fast enough.”