Kelenna Azubuike to be Warriors TV game analyst; Jim Barnett to radio

NBC Sports Bay Area

Kelenna Azubuike to be Warriors TV game analyst; Jim Barnett to radio

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.”

Why Steph Curry's gesture at Oracle Arena finale touched Monta Ellis

Why Steph Curry's gesture at Oracle Arena finale touched Monta Ellis

For the final regular-season game in Oracle Arena history, Warriors star Steph Curry arrived rocking a No. 8 Monta Ellis jersey.

"Obviously, a lot of history that Monta was able to be a part of with the 'We Believe' Warriors era, and when I got here my rookie year, he was that guy," Curry told reporters back on April 7. "And I think for me, in terms of representing him on the last game, it meant a lot because we were in that backcourt together. 

"When he was traded it was a tough time in terms of the transition of the organization and things like that. I wanted to pay, obviously, honor to him in terms of his story, coming out of high school and doing what he was able to do. He was an Oakland fan, Warrior fan. Beloved guy."

Shortly after he got wind of Curry's gesture, Monta reacted on Instagram. But he recently expanded on his feelings.

"The biggest thing that I always wanted to do, like, when I leave this Earth, is know that I impacted somebody in some shape or form, no matter if it was on or off the basketball court," he told Marcus Thompson of The Athletic. "That’s my biggest thing.

"So to hear that from him, man, it just means I did what I was supposed to do. I made an impact on somebody’s life before I left here.”

During the 2009-10 season -- Curry's rookie campaign -- Ellis averaged a career-high 25.5 points per game.

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The following year, he racked up 24.1 points and 5.6 assists per contest, while Curry registered 18.6 points and 5.8 assists per night.

Although Monta was disappointed with how the franchise handled his trade to Milwaukee in March 2012, he has nothing but love for Dub Nation.

“That’s my second home,” he told Thompson. “I love Oakland. The fans are like no other. I’ve never seen any other fans in America like Oracle.”

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Why Steve Kerr’s message to enjoy Warriors' dynasty should’ve been heeded

Why Steve Kerr’s message to enjoy Warriors' dynasty should’ve been heeded

Steve Kerr knew this season would be different, how could he not?

Still, even the Warriors head coach couldn't have predicted how drastically different his sixth season in the Bay would be. 

Kevin Durant left to become a Net. Klay Thompson likely will miss the entire season rehabbing his torn ACL. Then, Steph Curry broke his left hand and will be re-evaluated in February and D'Angelo Russell missed nine of the first 21 games with a thumb sprain. This has left Kerr to lead a group of rookies, role players and reclamation projects through the NBA season.

Dynasties aren't built to last. Kerr, a six-time NBA champion as a player and coach, knows that. He knows how fleeting championship runs can be. The Warriors have gone from dreaded bully thirsting for June champagne to a champion laying on the canvas as a 12-month recharge washes over them.

“No,” Kerr laughed when NBC Sports Chicago's K.C. Johnson asked if he thought anyone savored last season's run when he told them to. “It’s human nature to think we’re going to win it again and we’re going to keep going forever. Life changes quickly.

“I talked not only to the media and our fans but to our team. Last year there were several times when I said, ‘This is going to be our best chance to win a championship.’ We’ve got an incredible opportunity that may never come up again. That’s something that’s important for everybody to realize---fans, management, players. It is lightning in a bottle. You can do everything perfectly and you still may not get to where you think you might be.”

The Warriors will be back. That's the plan at least. This season serves as a reboot point. A mere pitstop in a dynasty that has been paused not concluded.

But plans, even those best laid, rarely go as drawn up. Kerr knows that. That's why he implored everyone from Curry to those sitting in the nosebleeds at Oracle Arena to enjoy one of the most impressive runs in NBA history.

You never know when things will come back, and things surely never will be the way they were when Curry and Warriors were pulverizing teams into oblivion en route to five-straight NBA Finals appearances.

That ride, as Kerr predicted, came to an end.

A new one has begun.

[RELATED: Warriors' plan might draw speculation after two inexplicable losses]

The Warriors sit at 4-19. Rookies Eric Paschall and Ky Bowman have played well, as has veteran swingman Glenn Robinson III. But it's unlikely to amount to many wins this season. It's instead about teaching, about growth for next season when a fully loaded Warriors team will enact its vengeance on an NBA that is taking pleasure in pummeling the wounded champions. 

That will be a sweet moment for Kerr and the Warriors, should it come.

Pleasure, in sports and in life is, fleeting. Titles come. Confetti falls. Elation hits. Then, it's on to next year, and one day, before you've blinked, things are different. The run is over and a new course has been charted.

That course is expected to get the Warriors back to the top soon. If it does, expect everyone to heed Kerr's advice and enjoy the ride.