The Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are not on many short lists to win the NBA championship, but the television gods have shone on them: Each has wrangled 24 national telecasts on ABC, TNT, ESPN and ESPN2 during the 2007-08 regular season.
That’s more than any other team in the NBA, as revealed in the announcement of the schedules on Thursday, and is a tribute to star power. The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant led the league in scoring last season, and the Suns feature Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire, both of whom made the All-NBA team for 2006-07.
Stars are also in the ascendancy on the four other teams with bountiful national coverage: Favored with 23 games apiece, the Miami Heat have Shaquille O’Neal and Dwayne Wade and the Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitski was last season’s MVP. Two more teams harvest 22 national appearances: the Cleveland Cavs (featuring LeBron James) and the San Antonio Spurs (Tim Duncan and Tony Parker led them to the championship in 2006-07).
The national telecasts kick off with an Oct. 30 doubleheader on TNT. The lead game between the Spurs and the Portland Trailblazers (with number one draft choice Greg Oden) will include the championship-ring ceremony; the second game, in L.A., pits the Lakers against the Houston Rockets.
ESPN begins its coverage the next night with a doublheader. The Cavs host the Mavericks in the first game and the Seattle Supersonics visit the Denver Nuggets in the nightcap.
ESPN and ABC will carry a combined total of 90 games, including 18 exclusive contests on ABC, starting with a Christmas Day doubleheader: the Heat vs. the Cavs, followed by the Suns vs. the Lakers.
TNT has 52 games on tap, 46 of them slotted during the weekly series of exclusive NBA doubleheaders.
TNT, ESPN and ABC divvy up the post-season games, with ABC getting exclusive dibs on the Finals.