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Teams are OK

Celtics play-by-play man Mike Gorman noticed something different about the players' on-court attitude during the team's final two exhibition games last week. "They were smiling," he said. "That hasn't been the case around here in a while." Celtics analyst Tom Heinsohn has noticed something different with the team this exhibition season, too. "They're not only talking about running, but they're working on it in practice, teaching it, and making a commitment to it," he said.

The new look may or may not pay dividends right away when the FSNE broadcast team starts its 23d Celtics season together with the regular-season opener at the FleetCenter tomorrow night against the Miami Heat (also on WWZN radio, at 7).

Heinsohn has played the running game, coached it, broadcast it, and watched it at home as a fan.

"There are two ways to win: By getting the dominant big man or by using speed and quickness to run," he said. "Because that outstanding big guy rarely comes your way, running is the quickest and easiest way to win, once you get the system installed. You get your players thinking on the floor, you force the other team to make decisions more quickly, and you don't give the opposing team time to set the defense."

The broadcast team -- the nation's longest-running [that word again] tandem -- is looking forward to Life After Antoine (Walker), but each made it clear he wasn't trashing Walker on the way to his new home in Dallas.

"He was a competitor and gave the team mental and physical toughness," said Heinsohn. "He also was the team's best passer. That meant [coach] Jim O'Brien often had him out on the perimeter."

"He came in as a rookie and was given a lot of freedom by M.L. Carr, and that continued in the Rick Pitino era," said Gorman. "I'm not sure that was the best thing for him in the long term. As a result, he developed some bad habits. This trade likely will benefit his career."

Last year, the team's broadcasts averaged a 1.6 rating in the Boston market (not counting returns from Northern New England, Providence, and Hartford). Last Friday's final exhibition game did a 1.7, so there's hope for increased interest this season.

Six Celtics games will be broadcast simultaneously [with separate announcing teams] on FSNE and ESPN, starting with the Dec. 17 Dallas visit to Boston. ESPN must have been prescient, because it scheduled both Boston-Dallas games long before the season. It will be interesting to see Walker in those games. "He's only 27, and he has the desire to be a star in this league," said Gorman.

FSNE will broadcast 78 of the team's 82 regular-season games. TNT has exclusive coverage of the Feb. 9 game against the Cavaliers (and LeBron James) in Cleveland, and ABC will have the Jan. 18 game against the defending champion Spurs at the FleetCenter. Two Sunday afternoon games -- Jan. 25 at New Jersey and April 4 at Washington -- aren't scheduled for TV unless they're rescheduled outside of ABC's exclusive window or picked up as national telecasts.Grande, Max back

Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell are back for Year 3 together on WWZN (1510 AM). However, unless a sponsor steps forward, the postgame "Celtics Rewind" is in storage . . . TNT begins its 52-game national schedule (38 games as part of exclusive Thursday night doubleheaders) tonight with an "NBA Tip-Off '03" preview at 7, followed by Suns-Spurs at 8 and Mavericks-Lakers at 10:30. Former Spur Steve Kerr gets his championship ring in a pregame ceremony, then sits courtside to make his broadcast debut with Marv Albert and Mike Fratello in the opener. Kevin Harlan calls the second game alongside Doug Collins, who makes his return to the network. Thursday, TNT has "newcomers night" with Denver (and consensus pick as preseason rookie of the year Carmelo Anthony) at Houston at 8, followed by Cavaliers-Suns at 10:30 . . . ESPN opens its 72-game schedule tomorrow with a doubleheader: Magic at Knicks (8 p.m.) with John Saunders, Bill Walton, and Stuart Scott (reporter) broadcasting, followed by Cleveland at Sacramento (10:30 p.m.) with Brad Nessler, Sean Elliott, Dan Majerle, and Jim Gray (reporter).

A nice scramble ABC scrambled to get last night's Dolphins-Chargers "Monday Night Football" game on the air. After the Sunday night announcement that the continuing Southern California fires necessitated the game being moved to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., the ABC production team regrouped. The graphics truck, containing all the software that gives the ABC production its Monday night "look," was driven to Tempe; however, because of fire-related road closures, it was a 10-hour circuitous trip via LA. The Madden Cruiser (bus) took the same route . . . Next Sunday's NFL telecasts in Boston are Colts-Dolphins on CBS (Channel 4) and Jets-Giants on Fox (Channel 25) at 1 p.m. Fox has the Redskins-Cowboys late game and ESPN's "Sunday Night Football" matchup is Green Bay-Minnesota . . . Fox's 12.8 World Series national rating (22 share) for the six-game Marlins-Yankees series represented an 8 percent increase over the 11.9 rating (20 share) for last year's Angels-Giants seven-game Series. Overall, Fox's postseason numbers were up 28 percent (10.5 rating/18 share) over a year ago (8.2/14), thanks in large part to the interest generated by the Red Sox and Cubs . . . Boston College officials had to be thrilled that the Iowa-Penn State game ended before BC-Notre Dame, allowing the whole country to witness the Eagles' victory on ABC. The bad news for Eagles fans is that Saturday's BC-Pittsburgh game (WEEI radio, 1 p.m.) won't be televised . . . Channel 56 has Dartmouth-Harvard at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, and Channel 5 has the ABC doubleheader of Michigan-Michigan State at noon, followed by Oklahoma-Oklahoma State at 3:30 p.m. CBS sends along Florida-Georgia (Ch. 4, 3:30 p.m.) while NBC has Florida State-Notre Dame (Ch. 7, 2:30 p.m.) . . . NESN debuts a weekly Bruins recap show, "Bruins Breakaway" following Saturday night's postgame show. The show, hosted by Eric Frede, will re-air Sunday afternoon at 12:30.

Bill Griffith's e-mail address is griffith@globe.com.

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