The NBA has released the 2013-14 regular-season schedule via its official website, thus leading to a close examination of each and every game. According to Brett Pollakoff of NBC Sports, a key focus is that the Los Angeles Lakers have more nationally televised games than the defending champion Miami Heat.
There's genuine reason for debate, but in the end, the Lakers deserve their allotted amount of nationally televised games.
The Lakers are entering a difficult period, as Kobe Bryant hopes to recover from a career-threatening Achilles tendon injury, and both he and Pau Gasol will be free agents after this season. It's also well-known that there are questions surrounding head coach Mike D'Antoni's ability to lead.
Even still, the NBA's decision makes sense.
The Lakers may not be the best team in the NBA, but that's hardly the focus here. The Lakers deserve every shred of attention that they're receiving, and there's more than one reason why.
The value of storylines shouldn't go unnoticed.
Kobe's Last Run in L.A.?
It's no secret that Kobe is attempting to come back from a career-threatening torn Achilles tendon. Even if he is to make a miraculous return and perform at an MVP-caliber level, there's one thing we must acknowledge—this could be Bryant's last run in Los Angeles.
Kobe is set to become a free agent in 2014, and the general consensus is that L.A. will re-sign him. The truth of the matter is, nothing is predictable come free agency, and with L.A. under new ownership, we may just see Bryant depart.
It's a terrifying thought to imagine Bryant in another jersey, but it's at least a possibility.
With this in mind, fans will inevitably tune in to watch Kobe as he puts on one last guaranteed push. Keep in mind, Bryant wasn't just good in 2012-13; he played as well as any other player in the NBA down the final stretch of the season.
With his teammates' effort questioned and their health in doubt, Kobe led the Lakers to a record of 26-12 during the final 38 games he played, somehow helping them reach the playoffs. He fought through a gruesome ankle injury and did what he does best: beat the odds.
Loved, hated and constantly under fire, the Lakers' fanbase is one of the most passionate in the entire world of sports. Spreading across different continents and throughout every state in America, it's a legitimate fact that a Lakers road game doesn't always feel as if they're away from home.
In the end, that is the reason they're on national television.
The Lakers are entering a season of uncertainty, but their fanbase never wavers, even if they can fall into the classification of delusional. They'll claim their team is a title contender until the day they're eliminated and sing the praises of every player on the roster.
Most importantly, they'll watch every game.
Austin Karp of Sports Business Daily reports that the NBA's league-wide ratings actually decreased during the 2012-13 season. With this in mind, David Stern's best bet would be to put one of the most popular franchises in basketball on national television as much as possible.
That's exactly what he's doing with the Lakers.
We could ask why the Lakers have more nationally televised games than the defending champion Miami Heat, but we know the answer already. The Heat are on a different level and only a select few teams can make games against them competitive and entertaining.
You don't need NBA League Pass to know that.
The Lakers may be in danger of dropping out of title contention, if they haven't already, but they're too talented to not be competitive. Kobe Bryant is a legendary clutch scorer, Pau Gasol dominated 2012-13 when healthy and Steve Nash nearly led a disastrous Phoenix Suns team to the playoffs just two years ago.
Even if they don't win, the Lakers will compete and make games entertaining.
In the end, the Lakers are one of, if not the most popular organization in all of professional basketball. Hate them or love them, their fanbase will tune in and, paired against high-quality opponents, so will the average NBA viewer.
We can complain now, but here's the fact—the NBA is a business for commissioner Stern and one year removed from a decline in ratings, putting a popular product on TV is his only option.