The Wizards have their best record after 25 games in six years and are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference standings but they will have to wait a while before a national television audience is able to pay attention.
The NBA announced late Thursday night that it has adjusted its schedule and removed a Feb. 7 game between the Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers from ESPN’s telecast. The game would’ve been the Wizards’ only appearance on NBA network television partners ABC, ESPN or TNT this season. ESPN prefers to broadcast a more glamorous matchup between Portland and Indiana, the two teams that currently lead the Western Conference and Eastern Conference, respectively.
Washington hasn’t been on ESPN since April 14, 2010, and was last featured on TNT during John Wall’s rookie season in 2010-11. The Wizards lost both games that season – Wall’s NBA debut in Orlando and a Thanksgiving matchup in Atlanta – by a combined 49 points and ESPN dropped a scheduled matchup against Phoenix later that season to show New York and Charlotte. Last season, the Wizards were supposed to face the Detroit Pistons on ESPN on Feb. 27 but the network dumped those teams to show Golden State and New York instead.
National television games reflect the entertainment value or expectations for the team and the Wizards have been justifiably low on the relevance scale after five straight appearances in the NBA draft lottery.
“These guys don’t need that for motivation,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “The way social media is today, these games are on every channel you can possibly watch. Hey, the NBA does what they have to do. We’ve just got to worry about ourselves.”
The Wizards (12-13) have won three in row and have the look of a playoff team at full strength but the Cavaliers (10-18) have lost three in a row, knocking off some of the luster from a matchup between former No. 1 overall picks John Wall and Kyrie Irving.
Cleveland and Washington split their two meetings this season. The Cavaliers beat the Wizards, 103-96, in overtime on Nov. 16 as Irving matched his career high with 41 points and the Wizards avenged that loss four days later with a 98-91 victory at Quicken Loans Arena.
Wall is averaging career highs in scoring (19.6 points) and assists (9.1) but is currently a distant fourth in all-star voting behind Dwyane Wade, Irving and Derrick Rose. Irving is averaging 21.5 points and six assists and looks to be headed to the NBA’s annual showcase with 524,000 votes. Wall only has 210,988, but he is actually losing ground since he trailed Irving by about 240,000 votes in the first update two weeks ago.
The Wizards could still wind up getting back on the national television schedule, since the NBA regularly modifies the schedule based on interest. If the Wizards continue to improve or wind up facing a more intriguing opponent the rest of the way, the current snub could easily be corrected. Washington is scheduled to appear on NBATV three more times, including Friday’s matchup with Minnesota.