Despite being in the seventh-largest television market in the NBA, and having a premier duo of guards in John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Washington Wizards will be featured in far less nationally televised games this season compared to last season.
According to Candace Buckner of the Washington Post, the Wizards will be initially slated for nine games on the NBA’s national televised slate between ESPN, TNT and ABC, starting with a Nov. 2 matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder (ESPN). That’s a significant drop from the 18 that the Wizards were featured in a season ago.
Last season, the Wizards entered the season with high expectations after winning 49 games and being one game away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. However, the season did not go as smoothly as planned. Wall missed 41 games on the season, the Wizards stumbled losing to teams they were expected to beat and by season’s end had just 43 wins and finished as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference before being bounced in six games in the first round against Toronto. The Wizards will play the Raptors during the opening week of the season and the game will be shown on NBATV on Oct. 20.
Those nuggets had to play a factor in the NBA’s decision to lower the Wizards’ number of nationally televised games. Washington also got omitted from the Christmas Day slate after being in the prime-time slot last year against Boston. The Celtics will remain in the time slot and play the Philadelphia 76ers instead. Washington’s annual Martin Luther King Day game — Jan. 21 against the Detroit Pistons — also will not be televised nationally. One season of regression apparently has made the Wizards less attractive to league officials, despite the team having one of the best increase in viewership for their games last season.
Last season, the NBA tried to capitalize off the heated rivalry between the Wizards and Celtics, who went seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals, by placing all four meetings on national T.V. However, before the season started the Celtics did the unthinkable trading away several key pieces to the rivalry in exchange for Kyrie Irving. While Irving increased the marquee value of the Celtics, shipping out Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Avery Bradley hurt the dynamics of the Wizards-Celtics rivalry.
Their meeting on Christmas Day, a Wizards’ 111-103 win, drew a nine percent increase in viewers for the 5:30 time slot compared to the previous year, however, the rivalry lost some of its luster.
Wall and Beal are dynamic and arguably the best backcourt in the Eastern Conference, however, one cannot fault the league for being afraid of a letdown by them. Washington finds a way to play down to the competition and their shaky past with health gives a possibility of the team missing some of its star power in games with either Wall or Beal injured.
All the Wizards can do is prove the NBA schedulers wrong and work their way into some of the flex games later in the season with ESPN. Wall said he liked how the attention was no longer on the Wizards. He got his wish this season.