The story of the 2010-2011 national television schedule is about what you'd expect. Lots of Heat, lots of Boston, lots of Lakers, and the rise of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Boston Celtics surprisingly lead all teams in national television appearances across NBATV, ESPN, ABC, and TNT with 33 appearances. The Miami Heat, no shock, are second, with 29 appearances, while the defending champion Lakers appear 27 times. That number is likely to increase signficantly with NBATV's fan night. The Orlando Magic also appear 29 times, compared to the East's three-seed Atlanta Hawks, who appear just 14 times. Of the 15 games on ABC, 14 feature the Heat, Celtics, Lakers, or Magic.
New York appears 18 times, while Phoenix has certainly earned some faith from the producers, landing 25 national appearances. Oklahoma City were the big winners, with 24 big-time appearances, and the first post-Christmas ABC game, facing the Heat at home. It's a big win for a small market club.
Of course, most other small-market clubs didn't fair so well. Indiana is without a single appearanc. Charlotte and Memphis have 6 each, New Orleans 7, and Milwaukee only has 8, despite being playoff or near-playoff teams. This is in contrast to the Clippers, the freaking Clippers, getting 12 appearances. Win total didn't have much to do with these decisions.
Your top five nationally televised games not on Christmas, Opening Night, or MLK Day:
- Heat at Magic, November 24th, ESPN: The Sunshine Massacre. The Heat's primary weakness, true size, is tested against Dwight Howard while Jameer Nelson could have a huge game against Mario Chalmers.
- Lakers at Thunder, February 27th, ABC: Welcome back, Lakers. They barely got out of the Sooner state with their playoff lives last April and the Thunder should be improved. Kevin Durant will likely take this one personally, while Kobe loathes challengers to his throne.
- Heat at Cavaliers, December 2nd, TNT: "Peace? Peace. I hate the word. As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee."-Cleveland
- Blazers at Jazz, April 7th, TNT: Let's imagine Greg Oden stays healthy. Let's imagine Al Jefferson stays healthy. Deron Williams, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby, Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Millsap. The Northwest Division is a bloodbath.
- Lakers at Celtics, February 10th, TNT: It's refreshing when the networks give you two seldom-seen teams that never match up. It's a once-in-a-lifetime type game, really.