We are 67 days away from the 2017-18 NBA season tipping off!
On August 10th, the NBA revealed their opening week nationally televised games and their slate of Christmas Day games. A total of 13 games, a possibility of 26 teams to choose from (we all know they’re not 26 teams in the running for these coveted spots) to give NBA fans a hot start to a fresh season after a stale playoffs. So explain to me why the Portland Trail Blazers were left off this docket?
— NBA (@NBA) August 10, 2017
Due to time zones the Cleveland Cavaliers (with or without Kyrie Irving) being the first team featured on television followed by the Golden State Warriors cannot be a surprise. The league giving us Chris Paul‘s Houston Rockets instead of the conference final loser San Antonio Spurs is a testament to the league’s willingness to lean toward star power instead of logical story telling. I mean, would you have complained if Opening Night was all about reliving the Final Four especially with Kawhi Leonard back in the lineup for the Spurs?
There is zero disrespect to the Trail Blazers for being left out of the opening night festivities but how not one, not two but FIVE(5!) non-playoffs teams earned nationally televised broadcasts before them is ludicrous. Somehow the New York Knicks (twice), Philadelphia 76ers (twice), Minnesota Timberwolves (twice), Los Angeles Lakers (twice), and New Orleans Pelicans all earned spots ahead of the 8th seed in 2016-17 Western Conference.
It’s understood the New York Knicks are in the media capital of the world but if you know you are forcing them down our throats alongside some turkey on Christmas, and that whole media capital thing means you knew you were scheduling them on Christmas, why put them out there opening week also? It’s been 4 years since the Knicks made the playoffs and pending a spectacular series of events surrounding Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks are destined to miss the playoffs again this season. It seems so logical to slide the Trail Blazers into their spot on Thursday October 19th in OKC. Unlike the Knicks, the Trail Blazers have made the playoffs 4 years in a row and, barring injury, reason to make it 5 straight playoff appearances.
If merit had more to do with the Christmas Day scheduling it should have been the Toronto Raptors versus the Knicks to pull the curtains open and the Trail Blazers replacing the Timberwolves in the night cap. The league has gone all-in on “the process” in Philadelphia and the wheeling-and-dealing done by T’wolves giving them both opening week and Christmas honours. With the injury histories of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons giving them a spot opening week makes sense. Capitalizing on the excitement of the unknown quantity that is a healthy 76ers team just like capitalizing on the unknown quantity that is the “Timberbulls” with Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson is sound business savvy. By Christmas though we will all see whether the 76ers and T’Wolves have gelled as teams or not. Neither team is “guaranteed” to be running away with a playoff spot or even if they will be seriously challenging for one so why the double dip?
The Lakers seeing action opening week and Christmas Day is a combination of media market size and time zone. With the overhaul in the Clippers organization, you know they are still going to be better than the Lakers but do you really want to watch them twice instead? The league has given us fair warning they will cram Lakers new point guard Lonzo Ball down our collective throats even at the cost of keeping a top 6 point guard off of TV on Christmas! We get to see Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Isaiah Thomas and John Wall but alas no Damian Lillard.
Somehow in a point guard league, the New Orleans Pelicans and their big man duo got a nationally televised game before the Trail Blazers. Sure writer Kail Schofield will argue ‘The Big Man is Back‘ but most of the Western Conference is here to dispute that point. At some point you will likely read my prediction that the duo of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis will earn the Pelicans a playoff spot behind the Trail Blazers but shouldn’t the team defending the playoff spot get priority to be nationally televised?
Maybe some of the disrespect toward the Trail Blazers is because we were one of the few sites that predicted even just one win for them in their playoff series against the Warriors. Maybe it’s because in the four consecutive trips to the playoffs they have never made it to the final four. Let’s not struggle to see the forest through the trees, in the hardest conference in all of sport, making the playoffs for a soon to be 5th time deserves to be acknowledged with some nationally televised love on either opening week or Christmas.