Much Ado About Scheduling: How the Wizards Will Win National TV Hearts
Here’s what we know about the Wizards schedule: EVERYTHING.
Here’s what we know about what the Wizards schedule really means:
First, the Wizards have arrived. We know this because national television stations that rely on the estimated sexiness of the two teams competing have scheduled the Wizards 15 times (10 excluding NBA TV) in hopes that money will follow, and flow. We don’t know how long the party will last, or when Washington will depart, full of mirth, and John Wall’s preferred diet of waffles, turkey bacon, some grapes, at least one smoothie, and calamari — plain, no funny stuff.
Last year, the team had one national television game scheduled on ESPN versus the Cleveland Cavaliers on February 7. On January 7, 2014, an announcement was sent out saying that the Wizards-Cavs game was bumped for Blazers-Pacers. Due to the bump, the Wizards had no “true” (non-NBA TV) national TV games last year. If you exclude NBA TV, the Wizards haven’t been on national TV in the regular season since Wall was a rookie, in 2010-11 (a blowout loss to the Atlanta Hawks).
For the 2014-15 season, the Wizards have nine scheduled games to be aired on ESPN, one on TNT, and five on premium subscriber station NBA TV. For perspective, Washington’s non-NBA TV allotment of validation is comparable to last year’s Indiana Pacers, who were awarded eight games on ESPN and two games on TNT before the start of the 2013-14 season. The year prior to that, the Pacers had seven national TV games scheduled prior to the season: five on ESPN and two on TNT.
National television game allotments are, in some cases, predictions made by networks regarding in-season relevance. In other cases, it’s about the market size, history of the team, and history between rival teams. For example, while the Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns will both have 10 non-NBA TV national television appearances this season, the Lakers will have two times that amount, checking in at 20 TNT/ABC/ESPN national television games. The New York Knicks will have 16, down from 25 last season.
Neither the Lakers nor the Knicks are expected to be as good, or as relevant, as the Wizards or the Suns, but a larger local, national, and global fanbase for the former teams’ (hashtag) brands justifies the coverage, despite a number of non-competitive national television games last season. As the Lakers and Knicks showed last year, the blessing of coverage can also be a blight.
However, even some big market teams can’t drum up as much interest as the Wizards, which is a departure from years prior. The Brooklyn Nets, who all but ceded the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference to the Wizards last year, only have four non-NBA TV national television games this season. The cameras follow Paul Pierce, evidently.
In last season’s home stretch, it became clear that the final regular season games, and a potential playoff series win, was an audition that could redefine perspective on Washington’s trajectory. The pageantry of winning didn’t necessitate a crown to ensure relevance in the season to come, but it called for a show. Fortunately, the Wizards played a good set, and then gave an encore. During the playoffs, the convincing series win against the Chicago Bulls, despite being the underdog in the series, made them a miscast favorite to beat the Pacers. Which should be a hint: It was easy for the national audience to believe that the Wizards were, and will be, a good team.
And they are. After losing Trevor Ariza and Trevor Booker, the Wizards did an admirable job to add where fate, state income tax considerations, and jazz had subtracted. They emerged with future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce, long-time Wizards fan thirst trap DeJuan Blair, and Kris Humphries, who needs no introduction.
None of the aforementioned signees will replace Ariza’s wing defense, and Pierce, although he’s no slouch, probably won’t replace Ariza’s knockdown 3-point shooting. But Pierce is versatile, capable of hitting a shot from almost anywhere on the floor, and capable of creating that shot for himself. Some will call for Pierce to fill Ariza’s role, but it would be a shame if he was limited to that strict format of long-range bomb and point blank finishing. Ariza excelled at that efficient mix, but Pierce is, or at least was, a different kind of player. Pierce is a safety valve, a player who can take the pressure off of Wall — especially when Wall is caught up in the air with five seconds left on the shot clock — with a decisive move and the right shot.
To address a valid point that my own brain makes every once in a while: yes, I can confirm that Paul Pierce is quite old. But after issuing a definitive “no deal” to a ghost looking to ease him into retirement, his career isn’t dead yet. His performance in the second half of the Nets season, and in the 2013-14 playoffs is proof enough of that.
Drew Gooden and Kevin Seraphin return to the frontcourt rotation, though both may be in reduced roles. For the Wizards, Seraphin may be the most confusing player decision of the summer. With an otherwise full frontcourt in the waning days of roster-building, it was announced that Seraphin had signed the qualifying offer the Wizards had extended to him at the start of free agency.
That Seraphin signed is not surprising, but it is surprising that the Wizards did not rescind the offer after filling out a frontcourt with Gortat, Nene, Humphries, Gooden, and Blair. With a real need for depth at the wing, Seraphin’s roster spot could have been better used elsewhere. Of course, the team still has a roster spot, even if in recent years, that roster spot has been held for Elijah, and flexibility, until it is filled later in the season. The Wizards also haven’t technically renounced the rights to Chris Singleton — he’s still listed on the team website.
Otherwise, bringing Garrett Temple back is almost understandable. He is, by all accounts and my own limited observation, a positive presence in the locker room. It’s been said that he excels at defense. Anecdotally, I’ve seen some evidence of this. But it’s ultimately unclear. On occasions that he’s been smoked late in games, one could blame the nature of being a late-game plug-and-play insert, but that would involve admitting he’s not good in that role, which will be his role again, most likely.
Back to the schedule.
There will be several instances in which the Wizards will be tired, so tired, because of back-to-back games. No other team will ever have a back-to-back, or be tired, so tired. It’s interesting, or perhaps expected, to note that Washington’s offense got progressively worse between zero and two days rest last season, while the defense got progressively better.
- Off Rtg: 0 days rest – 104.9
- Off Rtg: 1 day – 103.5
- Off Rtg: 2 days – 101.5
- Def Rtg: 0 days rest – 103.2
- Def Rtg: 1 day – 102.3
- Def Rtg: 2 days – 99.1
Perhaps it’s easier to get motivated to play defense when you’ve had time to think about a recent loss. Washington’s record in the above-listed categories was as follows:
- 0 days rest: 12-8
- 1 day of rest: 24-20
- 2 days rest: 8-4
- 3 or more days rest: 0-6
Below, you will find some notes and predictions regarding every nationally televised game. And the season finale. Against the Cavs, which is not on national television but very well could be by April. Here’s the Wizards path to becoming America’s team and the sporting world’s darling by winning every national television game.
Wednesday, November 5 – Pacers at Wizards – ESPN
The Wizards play the unluckiest team of 2014 months after that team eliminated them from the playoffs. During this game, Pacers players will be in a team huddle when the Lucky Charms leprechaun transmits himself into the arena on the back of an actual rainbow, tells each Wizard where an individual pot of gold is, and then hugs Roy Hibbert’s leg (to ensure no referee will ever call him for traveling) before disappearing.
Final score: Wizards 98 – Pacers 82.
Friday, November 21 – Cavs at Wizards – ESPN
LeBron James was injured in the Cavs’ first game of the season. Kevin Love was injured shortly thereafter. The Wizards take on Kyrie Irving and Mike Miller.
Final score: Wizards 110 – Cavs 101.Friday, December 5 – Nuggets at Wizards – NBA TV
JaVale McGee scores 44 points. Before the game, he serves Marcin Gortat with documentation that proves that McGee is a superior center due to his clay core. All of the papers were forged, however, and it’s revealed that McGee is just a guy who retweets himself and once had two friends named Andray Blatche and Nick Young. His halftime attempt at the cinnamon challenge pollutes Ty Lawson’s lungs and the Wizards come back from a halftime deficit to win on a Kris Humphries midrange leaner because why not.
Final score: Wizards 102 – Nuggets 101.
Thursday, December 25 – Christmas Day Game – Wizards at Knicks – ESPN
For Christmas, John Wall asks for Colin Cowherd’s head on a platter. Ted Leonsis refuses, causing a rift between the owner and the star player which is later ameliorated when Leonsis takes the floor at Madison Square Garden to present Wall with a SnagFilm documentary short of Mr. Cowherd admitting to his own family that he regrets ever saying anything about Wall’s character. (This would actually be a good SnagFilm documentary short and I implore the citizens of this great country to create such a record.) Carmelo Anthony has wasted away from an inexplicable fast at this point and Bradley Beal becomes a MSG legend.
Final Score: Wizards 109 – Knicks 88.
Monday, January 5 – Wizards at Pelicans – NBA TV
Anthony Davis, referred to as Dhalsim by Nene, calls the Brazilian center Blanka in return. This leads to a series of timed rounds of fighting. When three such rounds have expired, and Anthony Davis’ health has been depleted completely, intrepid reporters discover that Nene’s thumbs are raw from button-mashing.
Final Score: Wizards 116 – Pelicans 110
Friday, January 9 – Bulls at Wizards – ESPN
Gifted a valid excuse to return to D.C., John Calipari picks out his best scarf, pinches off two centimeters of pomade to coat his mane, and makes his way to Verizon Center. He makes a joke to a courtside reporter that he wishes both sides could win. And anyways he’s proud of his guys. Meanwhile, on Twitter, people use a “Pepsi Challenge” strategy to compare early career stats of Wall and Rose. The Wizards win, but all anyone cares about is whether Wall’s ceiling is higher or lower than Rose’s. Don’t you care, too?
Final score: Wizards 88 – Bulls 86.
Wednesday, January 21 – Thunder at Wizards – ESPN
HELLO GOOGLE CAN YOU HEAR ME KEVIN DURANT WIZARDS 2016. ALL YOUR CLICKS ARE BELONG TO ME.
(The self-conscious satire helps, but at what point does that satire also just become part of the infernal “conversation,” lumped so haphazardly together so as to be indistinguishable? At what point does it do a disservice to ardent fans who just want to camp out in front of someone’s summer home when he isn’t around and take pictures of themselves in Aviator glasses and Durant high school jerseys, chugging Four Lokos? See, it just happened. That hypothetical guy was likable for a second. With the first link, the chain is forged. Tell me about that time you had that feeling he was coming home.)
Final Score: Wizards 35 – Thunder 0 chance.
Saturday, January 24 – Wizards at Trailblazers – NBA TV
President Obama issues a statement that reads: “Wizard forces have been deployed in Portland, Oregon, this evening in what many are calling ‘The Battle of Midrange.’ Our prayers are with eyeglasses and spreadsheets everywhere.”
Final Score: Wizards 105 – Blazers 99.
Sunday, January 25 – Wizards at Nuggets – NBA TV
Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier are replaced by a recording of Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier saying “Tired legs” over and over again. The device short-circuits after the first quarter, however, and the Wizards are able to overcome the age-old excuse. A SportsCenter Top 10 play is created when Kris Humphries outjumps an ill-prepared JaVale McGee, circles the rim after flushing the ball through, and recreates this oolong experience. Kris Humphries becomes JaVale McGee’s mortal enemy and Nene is injured while talking to media after the game. Memes are born.
Final Score: Wizards 87 – Nuggets 83
Wednesday, January 28 – Wizards at Suns – ESPN
The Wizards west coast trip will be televised, apparently. Four national television games in one week makes this a crucial stretch for Washington. The Suns roll out a lineup of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas, Tyler Ennis, and Alex Len. At one point, each Sun clambers on top of Len’s shoulders, forming a vertical column. The plan backfires when each dribble is easily burglarized.
Final score: Wizards 100 – Suns 99
Friday, February 20 – Cavs at Wizards – ESPN
With LeBron and Kevin Love missing most of the season, the Cavs attempt to scrape together enough wins to qualify for the final playoff spot in the East. Shawn Marion is a top contributor, and develops nice chemistry with Kyrie Irving. Marion and Varejao are injured in this game, however, and the Wizards take on Irving and Mike Miller in the second half.
Final Score: Wizards 120 – Cavs 80
Friday, March 6 – Heat at Wizards – ESPN
The Verizon Center is flooded with basketball fans who later demand refunds for Erik Spoelstra’s “ridiculous” decision to rest LeBron James. Nene is mean to Chris Bosh.
Final Score: Wizards 96 – Heat 88
Saturday, March 14 – Kings at Wizards – NBA TV
This game has it all, and fans who had their tickets refunded from the Heat game come out in droves. Darren Collison proves he’s in the conversation for the best point guard the NBA has ever seen, DeMarcus Cousins wears a tie under his uniform in an effort to repair his reputation (even in the placid wake of a FIBA win), and … no one has any idea what the Kings are doing. The Wizards play poorly, but pull away on the strength of Wall’s first triple-double of the year. Calipari smiles, and what looks like a lens flare is birthed on one of his incisors.
Final Score: Wizards 111 – Kings 102
Wednesday, March 18 – Wizards at Jazz – ESPN
The Trevor Booker revenge game goes about like you’d might think if you have been watching the Wizards for any amount of time. For those who haven’t, it is enough to know that Jan Vesely had one. Booker scores 26 points to go along with 14 rebounds. He opens his mouth to proclaim his dominance, and his roar begets a plague of whole grain cereal. The Jazz fans in attendance take it as a sign, and flee the arena. The Wizards go on to win in complete silence.
Final Score: Wizards 93 – Jazz 89
Tuesday, April 14 – Wizards at Pacers – TNT
Playing surprisingly good basketball without Paul George, the Pacers catch the Wizards off guard and lead at halftime by 16. However, Roy Hibbert disappears, “Leftovers”-style, in the second half. Larry Bird can be seen chewing his lip. Frank Vogel can be seen chewing his lip. Randy Wittman can be seen yelling at Kevin Seraphin. Marcin Gortat replicates his Game 5 performance from the 2013-14 playoff series against the Pacers and goes home to stare at a white wall.
Final Score: Wizards 95 – Pacers 90
Wednesday, April 15 – Wizards at Cavs – CSN
Finally eliminated from the playoff race, the Cavs give in to despair. Kyrie Irving arrives at the Quicken Loans Arena on a tricked-out ark which floats on the tears of native Clevelanders. Once there, however, he spends the entire game with one finger pointed at David Blatt. Wizards fans wonder what could have been in a playoff series had the Cavs been healthy (see Wizards, the Gilbert Arenas years). A debate emerges as to whether those playoff series ever really constituted a rivalry on fan forums. Wizards fans, engorged on a season sweep of the Cavaliers, are admitted to local hospitals in record numbers for over-thumped chests.
Final Score: Wizards 130 – Cavs 72
And that’s how it’s going to go.