Coach Flip Saunders can easily play the “no-respect” card to motivate his young team during training camp after receiving the Wizards’ 66-game schedule. The NBA’s network television partners ABC, ESPN and TNT didn’t bother to schedule the Wizards for any games this season. NBATV will have the Wizards on six times.
The snub is understandable and justified, considering the Wizards won just 23 games and didn’t prove to be primetime players last season. They were so awful in two TNT appearances – losing by 29 points in John Wall’s career debut, and by 20 points on Thanksgiving – that ESPN didn’t bother to broadcast them, dumping a scheduled matchup against Phoenix in January without looking back.
Television broadcasts are generally a sign of your entertainment value, the expectations for your team, or if you are a Western Conference team that can play at 10:30 or so (which might explain why the Utah Jazz, a lottery team with no marquee stars, will appear a combined eight times on ESPN and TNT this season).
Even with a potential star in Wall and the slam-dunk champion runner-up JaVale McGee, the networks are looking for more than a few highlights. Wall might be healthy and poised for a big season, but he won’t be given a platform based strictly on his Reebok commercials.
The Wizards will have to earn some respect on the court and hope that ESPN or TNT will want to swap out a few games later in the season. The Wizards have just three Thursday games scheduled when TNT broadcasts, with a possible candidate being the season finale on April 26 against Miami. Right now, TNT prefers to show New York at Charlotte.
This season was probably a little more difficult to fit in most teams since there were fewer games to go around and the networks have to maximize the opportunities to showcase the more marketable teams.
TNT will broadcast 45 games, with Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers appearing 10 times, Miami appearing nine times and New York and Dallas eight. ESPN will have Miami on 16 times, Chicago and the Lakers 15 times, Boston and New York 14 times, Dallas 12 times, Oklahoma City 11 times, and the Los Angeles Clippers and Orlando 10 times. For its 15 broadcasts, ABC will have Miami five times, the Lakers and Bulls five times, Boston and New York four times and Dallas three times.