If you watched the “NBA On ESPN” late game on Friday night, you heard analyst Jeff Van Gundy make a case for the league-operated NBA TV network to air games featuring teams that, more or less, deserve to be aired on national television.
This happened when play-by-play man Mike Breen rattled off the upcoming games on the “national TV big board” toward the end of the third quarter, including a doubleheader tonight on NBA TV: the Miami Heat host the 5-12 New Orleans Pelicans, er, Hornets. After that, they will carry the 8-11 Portland Trail Blazers at the 6-12 Sacramento Kings.
It was at that point that a raspy-voiced Van Gundy made his thoughts known to Breen and the viewing audience:
JEFF VAN GUNDY: Is it a rule for NBA TV, that they have to have the majority of the teams that are on be sub-.500? Is that a rule?
MIKE BREEN: No, it’s not a rule —
VAN GUNDY: Let’s start giving them better games. Could we?
BREEN: (laughter) So, do you want the games for the sub-.500 teams?
VAN GUNDY: No! Don’t put them on!
BREEN: Then stop talking!
VAN GUNDY: They should not be on. If you’re sub-.500, you’re not on national TV.
The irony of this diatribe was that, as Deadspin points out, JVG was calling a game featuring a Los Angeles Lakers team that was sub-.500 themselves (9-10; they would go on to lose the game and post a 9-11 record).
Keep in mind that NBA does not have flex scheduling like the NFL. For example, NBC had an opportunity to select a different game other than the Dallas Cowboys/Philadelphia Eagles game that was appointed when the schedule was first released back in April. Despite their sub-.500 records at the time (the Cowboys are now 6-6), NBC opted to keep the game, and to an extent, it worked out for them.
So if Jeff Van Gundy had his druthers, the NBA would use flex scheduling for all nationally televised broadcasts – not just in primetime, but on Sunday afternoons, as well. Remember, “if you’re sub-.500, you’re not on national TV.”
Shouldn’t there be some sort of threshold, though, like the NFL uses (only after the midway point of the season is the flex scheduling option activated)? Think about it: The NBA season is barely two months old. And if you look at the list of upcoming national TV broadcasts at the start of the video, you’ll see that same Lakers team that played on ESPN this past Friday night will be on TNT this Thursday. Did the NBA know the Lakers would win just one of their first five games before firing their head coach? Same thing for the NFL: did they have any idea that the Eagles would not win a game for two entire months?
And by the way, that same 8-11 Blazers squad will be hosting the late game on TNT this Thursday, as well.
And, oh yeah, the Knicks and Lakers will once again be playing each other in Los Angeles, Christmas Day on ABC.
For Jeff Van Gundy’s sake, the Lakers better be over .500, or he might call in sick from too much egg nog.