The NBA released its 2011-12 schedule on Tuesday, and although the locked-out league's 2011-12 future is far from certain, one thing has become increasingly clear: New York is back in TV's good graces.
The Knicks are going to be on TV a whopping 29 times next year, which ties them for second with Chicago, behind Boston and Dallas (who are on national TV 30 times) overall. This means New York, which was just a game over .500 in last year's regular season before being swept out of the first round, will be on national TV one more time than those ratings hounds in Miami and Los Angeles. Clearly, in the eyes of the NBA's tastemakers, the New York setting is more than enough for New York's Big Two to compare with Miami's Big Three.
The defending champion Mavericks will open the season at home on Nov. 1 against the Chicago Bulls, a team that won an NBA-best 62 games last season. Following that game, on TNT, the Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder will square off in Los Angeles. Also, neither of those games will probably happen.
Christmas Day highlights include a first-round rematch between the Knicks and Celtics, followed by a Finals rematch between the Heat and Mavericks, again in Dallas, and Chicago's trip to Los Angeles to take on the Phil Jackson-less Lakers. Also, if history and the current lack of dialogue between the NBA and its players is any indication, none of these games will take place.
Orlando will host the NBA's All-Star weekend this year, showing off its shiny new arena, and the All-Star game will be broadcast on TNT on Feb. 26. Also, no it won't.
Though the Knicks clearly aren't on par with some of the championship contenders the NBA will broadcast nationally, they are a very entertaining team that played in a good chunk of some of last season's more closely contested games.
This is in stark contrast to the Knicks teams that were repeatedly aired on Turner Sports and NBC following New York's run to the 1999 NBA Finals. Those teams were incredibly dull to watch, low-possession sloggers that routinely took the air out of the ball on their way to an 82-75 contest. And, yet, they were on so much that TNT's Charles Barkley was actually excused by the league and his bosses for complaining about the Knicks ubiquity.
If any teams have to worry about disappointing the national TV audience, it's the two that tip off a season that won't start on time -- or at all.
Dallas and Chicago deserved all the wins they piled up last season, but Dallas is a veteran outfit that could see the floor pulled out from under it at any point. And Chicago squeezed everything it could out of a defense-first, offensive-blah roster on its way to those 62 wins. That's hard to do in consecutive years, even with a roster as tough and strong willed as Chicago's. Though the Bulls don't walk as much as those old Knicks teams did, their scoring droughts could lead to some unhappy viewers.
But it would still mean we'd get to see NBA basketball for parts of what is supposed to be 2011-12, which is no given right now. With both sides refusing to talk like grown-ups, it's not even a good possibility. The NBA had to release its schedule at some point, we understand, but dissecting these games in this climate is a laughable exercise.
I just wish I were laughing while doing it. Or, at the very least, getting some exercise.
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