2013-14 NBA: Have you heard about the Blazers?


Unless you’re a diehard NBA fan, you’ve probably either missed the best story of the pre-Christmas section of the NBA season. Fans who are more casual about their NBA fandom may have seemed out the standings, stopped and paused to make sure they were looking at their computer screen correctly and then moved onto setting their fantasy football lineup for the week.

If the regular season ended today, the Portland Trailblazers would be the first seed in the Western Conference. This is not a misprint. The Blazers have evolved from a mediocre team with a solid starting lineup and perhaps the worst bench unit in the league; into a deep unit that gives head coach Terry Stotts the ability to go nine deep. The days of Stotts weaving multiple starters with bench players in order to hide the inefficiency of the players riding the pine are gone.

Unlike the Pacers who have gradually risen from a team with a bright future to a legitimate title contender, the Blazers have morphed into one of the most intriguing teams seemingly overnight. Unfortunately, the casual fan probably has no idea how and/or why Portland currently has the second best record in the entire league because they have yet to play on national television.

Portland has appeared in one consolation game on NBA TV in the first 20 games of the regular season. Unfortunately Portland wasn’t scheduled for an intriguing matchup that night (Nov. 8th) as the Sacramento Kings came to town.

If your friend said to you, “Hey man, Kings-Blazers is on tonight, you down to watch?” odds are you’re going to pass because it is a Friday night and who in the hell (besides people in Sacramento and Portland) wants to spend two plus hours on a Friday night watching a game headlined by Demarcus Cousins, Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

The national television schedule is not exactly favorable towards the only NBA team in the pacific northwest. The Rose Garden (it’s still the Rose Garden to me damnit) will only see cameras from either ESPN or TNT six times this season. Five of those games will be played in the 10:30pm window. Those games have DVR written all over it. The Blazers will make four more appearances on NBA TV this season and get ready to stay up late to watch them as all but one start at 10 pm.

The NBA had a real opportunity to boost their viewership by airing the Pacers-Blazers game last Monday, but instead aired Magic-Wizards followed by a full night of Game Time. I understand they couldn’t just switch games, but it’s not like NBA TV is sending a production team and a broadcast unit to the game. They’re using the home team’s feed with NBA TV graphics. It was an inexcusable offense.

The internet does give you the ability to seek out information on the Blazers hot start, but reading multiple articles and watching highlights of the game is a much different experience than sitting down and digesting a full game.

If you’re a hardcore NBA fan, the $189 for an entire year of NBA League Pass is a justifiable cost. That is of course if you have the bread to shell out. There are quite a few people who would love to have an entire year of live games, but they simply can’t justify the cost.

Alternatively, there are an increasing amount of people who are deciding to boycott the current cable television model and go about the streaming route for their daily video content, so the normal $189 cost for League Pass doesn’t apply, but it’s still a hefty price ($125) for a product that hasn’t exactly tested well.

The other route is to illegally stream the games on the internet, which is extremely simple, but with this route you’re losing the ability to watch the games after they air. It’s quite baffling that the NBA does not have an equivalent to the NFL’s excellent Game Rewind. I imagine many fans who go about the streaming route would happily shell out $70 to watch day old replays of full games. For the increasing amount of cord cutters, this could be a way for the NBA to maximize their viewership on the internet.

Then there is the monster that is the NFL. If you’ve been sucked in by the entertainment value of the National Football League, it’s impossible to turn away now. Playoff scenarios are beginning to come in clearer every week. If you have invested thirteen weeks of your time to watching professional football (fourteen if you watch college), there’s no reason to lower your enthusiasm now, unless you’re the type of person who can’t watch when the combination of your fantasy team and favorite team fail to provide any positive vibes. If you happen to fall into that category, then you should probably jump on the Blazers bandwagon.

Unless of course you don’t like basketball, which means you probably didn’t make it this far down in the column.

It seems baffling to me that there isn’t more of a push to move the start of the season to Christmas. This way a team like Portland would be at least be in a little more of the spotlight, instead of being buried behind Knicks, Nets, Lakers and Heat news. The big market teams and superstars will always be the DNA of the league, but if the NBA could avoid all but the last week of the regular season in the NFL, it could help these early season success stories gain some notoriety and hell who knows, it might even make some people consider buying League Pass.

There is a chance the wheels could fall off in Portland before the sports world fully starts to pay attention to the NBA and if that’s the case it’ll be a real shame. The names Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews just won’t quite sound as good as they do right now.

Follow me on Twitter @Scottdargis


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