Sports

Complain all you want about the Lakers playing on opening night, but you know it’s the best choice

LeBron and Steph will face off on the NBA’s Opening Night.

LeBron and Steph will face off on the NBA’s Opening Night.
Image: Getty Images

It was a reasonable argument last February to want the Los Angeles Lakers off what seemed to be every other NBA nationally televised broadcast. Their season was unpleasant almost from the start, and Anthony Davis missed 42 games. His longest stretch was when he went down with an ankle injury just before the All-Star break for 18 games, right around three weeks after he missed 17 games due to a knee injury.

The 10 p.m. EST slot on Wednesday and Thursday, and the primetime Saturday nights would have NBA Twitter groaning in unison when, once again, the Lakers were the national game. That was annoying and, by March, agonizing. In a league full of interesting stars (even if Damian Lillard was injured) making the Portland Trail Blazers no longer watchable, there were the Phoenix Suns, the Golden State Warriors — hell, make the mountain time zone teams play an hour later than usual and put the Denver Nuggets on T.V. At least then someone will get to watch Nikola Jokić play.

NBA fans let your voices be heard loud and clear… after New Year’s. If the Lakers are again hovering in play-in territory then they need to be removed from a nationally televised game schedule before the NFL playoffs end, especially with Lillard back and a healthy Kawhi Leonard with the Los Angeles Clippers. But the opening night of the NBA season, people, it’s the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James.

It’s always fun to poke fun at the giant. The organization with all of the local television money, in a glamor market that always makes the acquisitions they want to make, yet still, in the last 10 seasons, they have made the playoffs only three times. Some of you out there have been specifically waiting for the fall of James in an embarrassing way that’s a mixture of hating for sport and clout chasing.

As bad as the Lakers were last year, there is no better way to maximize ratings than to have the TNT broadcast in San Francisco with the Warriors fan base making Charles Barkley want to hurl coffee mugs at them (please keep your hands and team paraphernalia to yourselves this year, Warrior fans) and James watching Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala receive their fourth championship ring in eight seasons. There’s no way around it.

Sure it would’ve been fun to get a rematch against the hissing Memphis Grizzlies with a healthy Ja Morant, but to NBA fans, that’s a Christmas present. No literally, the Grizzlies and Warriors are playing on Christmas Day. Give me that over Denver Broncos vs. Los Angeles Rams or Arizona Cardinals vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, please and thank you.

It would’ve been fun to watch the Dallas Mavericks play the Warriors on Oct. 18, the return of Leonard, or maybe even the return of Zion Willamson against the New Orleans Pelicans. That latter would actually be kind of outstanding, though it might need a contingency plan due to injury, the NBA can’t take a chance on not being able to maximize the draw of the league’s premiere franchise. It’s highly unlikely that James won’t be ready to play in the first, and there is still no better face to usher in a new NBA season.

NBA ratings are just starting to climb back to where they were before the start of the pandemic. Warriors vs. Lakers opening night last season did about 3.39 million viewers. NBA die-hards, I feel your pain but it would be foolish to slot any two other teams in that late Oct 18 slot. If the Phoenix Suns had won the title instead of sputtering and crapping out on the side of the road in the second round, Adam Silver still would have been right to schedule them to get their rings at home at 8:00 p.m. EST, and then have the Warriors play the Lakers at 10:30 p.m.

The new day is fast approaching the NBA, but it’s not here yet. I see the complaints and the jokes on Twitter. Some of them are hilarious. Say what you will but there’s no other way. Until the Lakers are trotting out the 2017-18 version of Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball, the Lakers aren’t leaving our T.V.s for a long time.

That being said, NBA, if the Lakers are under .500 after the Martin Luther King Day games, get ‘em out of the paint and off my television.



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