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Wizards play-by-play announcer Steve Buckhantz isn’t “the problem” with the Wizards

The long-time play-by-play announcer for the Wizards is effectively on thin ice with NBC Sports Washington after his option wasn’t picked up. There are other people in the organization who do.

Steve Buckhantz has been the Wizards’ TV play-by-play announcer since 1997. This may be his last season with the team.
Stewart W. Small

Earlier this week, Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post reported that NBC Sports Washington did not pick up the third year of Steve Buckhantz’s current contract to be the Wizards’ TV play-by-play announcer. Because of that this may be his last season with the Wizards though it is possible that he may return. Based on contract terms, Buckhantz had to be notified by Mar. 1 as to whether his contract would be picked up. Presumably, this is so he could look for a new job if management felt he was no longer the right fit.

According to Steinberg’s report, there are several reasons why NBC Sports Washington is considering replacing him. But one of the reasons is because they feel that he is not meshing well enough with color analyst Kara Lawson. Lawson came to the Wizards for the 2017-18 season where she replaced long-time analyst Phil Chenier.

Many fans were angered that Chenier was being replaced back in 2017. But Chenier at least continues to serve in an active capacity with the Wizards including on game day. Though getting Lawson is a home run hire by many, if not most accounts, that change still stings with some fans. But Chenier hasn’t left the Wizards entirely since he is still active within the team’s alumni organization and still went to the booth from time to time.

But you hear Buckhantz’s voice more often during a Wizards game, whether Chenier or Lawson was providing analysis. Losing him will feel make many fans feel empty. It just doesn’t seem right, like ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt who believes that the decision is idiotic. Van Pelt worked as an intern for Buckhantz when he was the sports anchor for WTTG, the Fox affiliate in Washington during his college days. Thom Loverro of The Washington Times also wrote that Buckhantz shouldn’t have been dealt this hand.

I agree that Buckhantz shouldn’t just be pushed to curb ... just because. Is his chemistry with Lawson different than with Chenier? Yes. But do I think that Lawson is a worse color analyst than Chenier? No. And do I think that Lawson and Buckhantz could NEVER be a good team together? No.

Play-by-play announcers and color analysts help make a game more “watchable.” But ultimately, it’s the team’s play that should determine whether fans will watch or not. I never thought Steve Buckhantz was “hurting” the Wizards’ broadcast while Kara Lawson was doing color analysis over the last couple years or vice versa.

I certainly get that Buckhantz won’t live forever and he will be replaced at some point. But Buckhantz has been an institution for Wizards game calling over the years which have been quite lean when the team wasn’t postseason bound. Assuming “chemistry” is the only thing in his way, let the man leave the Wizards on his own terms instead of making that call for him.