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The first half of the NBA’s 2020-21 season schedule is out, and you will not be surprised to hear the league has opted to give the Lakers more national TV games than any other team.
By Pro Basketball Talk’s count, the Lakers will have 16 of their first 37 games on either ABC, ESPN or TNT to open the season, two more than any other team in the NBA. That total reaches 23 if you add the seven games on NBA TV, which wasn’t counted in the schedule census.
Behind the Lakers is a four-way tie for second with 14 each between the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans and Golden State Warriors.
On the other side of the spectrum are seven teams with a whopping zero such games: the Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Washington Wizards.
With five more teams having only one game, and three others with two, three and four each, that means the Lakers have more games on ABC, ESPN or TNT than literally half of the NBA’s teams combined.
Lakers lead NBA’s national TV slate
National TV games for the 2020-21 season:
Lakers - 16
Celtics - 14
Mavericks - 14
Pelicans - 14
Warriors - 14
Nets - 13
Bucks - 12
Clippers - 11
Heat - 10
76ers - 9
Suns - 9
Rockets - 7
Nuggets - 6
Blazers - 5
Jazz - 4
Raptors - 4
Grizzlies - 3
(Via @basketballtalk ) pic.twitter.com/emlmFgZE9f
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) December 5, 2020
One team having more national appearances than half the league is wild, though looking at the chart above illustrates that the NBA at least managed to keep some teams within striking distance. If anything, this is less illustrative of how much the Lakers have than how many teams are simply have-nots in today’s NBA.
Still, it is not at all surprising the NBA put the Lakers on national television so many times. That’s only natural when the league’s most popular team has the league’s most popular player and is coming off a championship.
Hopes are high for a Lakers title repeat as well after a strong offseason, in which the team added the likes of Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder and Wesley Matthews. Essentially, the team has either retained or capably replaced every player of note on its championship team.
The Lakers’ season will kick off on opening night on Dec. 22, where they will face their crosstown rival Los Angeles Clippers on TNT. Three days later, it’s another national game with their Christmas matchup against Dallas and rising superstar Luka Doncic.
It’s worth reiterating that this is only half of the NBA’s schedule, so the national TV slate could very well balance out in the second half. The Wizards, in particular, could see some nationally televised games after adding Russell Westbrook, and you have to figure some of the other one- or zero-game teams could surprise.
But for now, this clearly remains the Lakers’ league.
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