The NBA season is closer than you think.
On Thursday evening, ESPN announced its 2012-13 NBA television schedule in conjunction with the NBA. It includes a blockbuster five-game Christmas Day offering, which includes some of the league’s best teams, biggest storylines and brightest stars.
For basketball fans, that means some important questions: Who will play on Christmas Day? What teams will be featured Opening Week? Who are the teams with the most appearances?
All questions that make for an exciting and lively discussion.
At the heart of that discussion is Leah LaPlaca, ESPN vice-president, programming & acquisitions, who sat down with Front Row to talk about the upcoming schedule.
How did ESPN’s 2012-13 NBA scheduling process begin?
The process involves our programming team and the NBA broadcasting team. We had our first meeting about the schedule at 2012 NBA All-Star in Orlando, Fla. where we talked about our available windows for ESPN and potential matchups for ABC. That’s where we began discussing the ABC Christmas Day doubleheader and our two games at Staples, which is a fun twist this year.
After our initial meeting at All-Star Weekend, the talks really kicked into high gear around the NBA Draft at the end of June. That’s when we had our next big meeting where we looked at where games will fall into place.
How do you compare constructing an NBA schedule for a full season with a condensed season like last year?
We had more time. We had more time to work with our research department and evaluate our options in a more thorough manner. Last season we had to accomplish in three days what we typically accomplished in two to three weeks like we did this season. The challenge in a normal season is waiting for player movement and seeing who will land where. It helps to be comfortable and understand what the NBA landscape will look like when putting the final touches on the schedule.
What is your main objective when constructing the ABC/ESPN schedule?
We want to come up with a schedule that gives fans what they want to watch. Our goal is to create a schedule that reflects the compelling matchups and storylines that fans want to see.
Two noteworthy changes this year are increased appearances for the Los Angeles Clippers — their first four regular-season appearances on ABC — and the new-look Brooklyn Nets with nine appearances on ESPN. What factors went into those scheduling decisions?
The Clippers have tremendous star power with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and they added some appealing pieces to their team like Lamar Odom and Grant Hill this offseason. They’re a team that played very well last year and made the Western Conference Semifinals. They have proven to be a compelling team and a consistent national draw, which is a combination we look for when determining our ABC Sunday Showcase games — our biggest platform.
The Brooklyn Nets also offer very intriguing storylines such as their move to a new city, the opening of the Barclays Center and their star guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. They’re one of the top stories in the NBA heading into the 2012-13 season.
What are your must-see games on the schedule?
I’m confident that our entire schedule is going to be exciting. To draw out a few — of course our five-game Christmas Day schedule, which includes the ABC doubleheader of Knicks at Lakers and Thunder at Heat. Also our first night of the season, Nov. 2, with the Heat at Knicks and Clippers at Lakers is one we’re really anticipating. Additionally, we have No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis’ first ESPN game with the New Orleans Hornets on Nov. 7. The Hornets will host the Philadelphia 76ers that night, just two nights after the New Orleans Saints host the Philadelphia Eagles on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. That’s going to be a memorable week for ESPN in New Orleans.
I’m also looking forward to our inner-city rivalry games. We have three out of the four Lakers vs. Clippers matchups and we have two Knicks vs. Nets games. It’s going to be a fun season.