SALT LAKE CITY -- The NBA announced Thursday that its national broadcast schedule has been adjusted to show the Phoenix Suns play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Jan. 8 on ESPN rather than the Lakers' road game against the Houston Rockets.
What was once a circle-the-calendar type of night, with Dwight Howard playing one of four reunion games against his former team, will now only be carried by local affiliates.
"I think they’re doing business and you can’t blame them," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said Friday. "It’s our job now to make them go, ‘Man, we messed that up.’ Everybody has to do their business. Our job is to make it to where we’re a good team. Obviously we haven’t showed that yet but we’re working at it."
D'Antoni was asked if it was "odd" to see the Lakers, one of the league's glamour franchises, bumped from the airways.
"It’s kind of odd that we’re three games under .500 too, so I think it kind of coincides together and we don’t have Kobe [Bryant]," D'Antoni said. "I think it kind of fits in together."
The Lakers host the Rockets on Feb. 19 in Howard's first time returning to Staples Center to face the purple and gold and also his first time, presumably, going up against Bryant (if he's healthy by then) since choosing Houston during free agency during the offseason. That game will be aired nationally on ESPN.
Coming into the 2013-14 season the Lakers had 25 national TV appearances scheduled (five on ABC, 10 on ESPN, 10 on TNT), tying them with the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks for most in the league.
This isn't the first time the strength of the Lakers' brand was tested this season. Back in November the team's sellout streak was snapped at 320 games.