As one of the cornerstone franchises in the NBA, it’s a rarity to see a Los Angeles Lakers game bumped from a scheduled National television slot the day before that game. But that’s what’s happened to the Lakers-Clippers matchup that was set to tip-off Friday night on ESPN. Instead, we get the rematch from a couple of nights earlier between the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors.
You can’t blame ESPN for wanting what is clearly the more intriguing matchup and one that will draw a better national rating. On Tuesday, the Warriors-Suns game drew the highest rating for a non-opening night game in almost two years. Lakers fans won’t like hearing this, but it’s the right move for the worldwide leader.
The Lakers and Clippers, for that matter, aren’t what many feel they should be right now, and the two biggest stars in that matchup will be either at home or on the sideline in street clothes (not Anthony Davis) during Friday’s game. LeBron James is out due to Covid protocols, and Kawhi Leonard hasn’t played a game for the Clippers since last year’s playoffs when he tore his ACL. As much as I like watching Davis and Paul George and some of these other players, most people aren’t tuning in nationally for this game unless James and Leonard are present. So, I get what the NBA is doing here, and it makes a ton of sense.
Golden State is a polarizing organization, and fans either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Between Stephen Curry, the team’s initial run, then snatching up Kevin Durant and dominating for three years, there have been plenty of reasons for NBA fans to grow tired of the baby-faced assassin and his crew. While Phoenix isn’t polarizing, they are on a 17-game winning streak. Then you get Curry, Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Draymond Green. This is just a much bigger game than anything the Lakers and Clippers can put together currently.
This might not be the last nationally televised game the Lakers get bounced from this season. Lebron’s played in just 11 of the Lakers’ 23 games so far. Whether it’s been because of injuries or now the Covid protocol stuff, he’s missed more than half the team’s games this year. If James keeps this trend going, the Lakers may not see another national for some time unless they’re playing Golden State.
It’s a bad look for the Lakers being booted from a national primetime slot, even if it is an early December game. Sure, the NBA is about stars, but the Lakers brand is supposed to sell itself regardless. Or so we’ve been led to believe by the organization and their minions. The Lakers have hovered near .500 all season; now they’re being replaced by the Warriors and Suns in ESPN’s big Friday night game. Oh, how the mighty continue their fall from grace.