Pelicans, Zion Get Top Billing On NBA's National TV Schedule
The Pelicans are "slated to play a franchise-record 20 times on ESPN, TNT or ABC" during the '19-20 NBA regular season, thanks to F Zion Williamson’s "magnetism and unique star power," according to Scott Kushner of NOLA.com. That is "seven more appearances than they’ve ever made in one season, and the two ABC broadcasts snap an 11-year drought from the network." Four of the team's first five games will "air on national TV." The NBA's power brokers "believe the nation wants to see what Williamson is capable of, and aren’t concerned about the consequences of placing an unprecedented burden on the 19-year-old star" (NOLA.com, 8/12). In New Orleans, Nathan Brown noted including games on ESPN, TNT, ABC and NBATV, the Pelicans "rank ninth in the league in nationally-televised games, with only the Celtics, Warriors, Rockets, Clippers, Lakers, Bucks, 76ers and Trail Blazers ranked higher." Notably, seven of those eight teams "made the playoffs a year ago, and one of them has LeBron James" (NOLA.com, 8/12). NBA TV's Jared Greenberg said the Pelicans' appearances show the "power of Zion Williamson," who has been "tremendous in brand awareness" ("Schedule Release Special," NBA TV, 8/12).
ON THE WEST SIDE: In L.A., Dan Woike notes the Clippers, after acquiring Fs Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, will be a "fixture on the NBA’s biggest nights all season, highlighting a first week when they host the Lakers on opening night, Oct. 22, before traveling to San Francisco to christen the new Chase Center" in the Warriors’ home opener on Oct. 24. The Clippers will "play in a franchise-high 26 nationally televised games," in addition to being on NBA TV "another 12 times" (L.A. TIMES, 8/13). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Matt Yoder noted the Lakers, Clippers and Warriors will all "see at least 26 games on ABC, ESPN, and TNT throughout the season." When NBA TV is included, the three clubs will "see nearly half of their games played on national television with the Lakers actually exceeding the 50% mark" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 8/12).
TO THE EAST SIDE: In Boston, Brian Robb noted the Celtics, despite losing G Kyrie Irving and F Al Horford in free agency, "continue to be a top draw for the league in the eyes of TV executives," as the team will play 25 times on ABC, ESPN or TNT. That is "just a two-game decrease from last season and the highest number of any team in the Eastern Conference" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 8/12). In N.Y., Stefan Bondy notes the Nets, who signed Irving along with F Kevin Durant and C DeAndre Jordan, have 12 games scheduled on either ABC, TNT or ESPN, up from "just one on those networks last season." The Nets were also "bypassed on a Christmas game." A source said that there was "consideration of making the Nets-Celtics a Christmas match up." But the Celtics instead will "face the defending champs -- the Raptors -- on Dec. 25." Irving will "make his return to Boston in a ESPN matchup on Nov. 27" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/13).
HIGHS AND LOWS: In Dallas, Brad Townsend notes TV network executives' "interest in the Mavericks is piqued," as "nine Mavericks games will air nationally on ESPN, including the season's second game," at the Pelicans on Oct. 25. Meanwhile, four Mavs games will "air on TNT" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/13). Meanwhile, the N.Y. DAILY NEWS' Bondy notes when it "comes to national network interest, the Knicks are at a low point." The team is "scheduled to play just three games on national television next season." Their number of nationally televised games has "dropped every year" since '16-17 (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/13).
I'LL BE BACK: In Oklahoma City, Maddie Lee notes the "only Thunder game on TNT’s broadcast schedule this season" is Rockets G Russell Westbrook’s first game back in OKC since the Thunder traded him last month. When last season's TV schedule was released, 27 Thunder games were "slated to be broadcast" on ESPN, ABC and TNT. This season, that number is three (OKLAHOMAN, 8/13). In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell notes Celtics G Kemba Walker's first game at Spectrum Center since leaving the Hornets in free agency is set for Nov. 7 and is "nationally televised on TNT." That is the Hornets' "only scheduled appearance on TNT, ESPN or ABC this season" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/13).