Lakers are screened out by ESPN and NBA

Lakers are screened out by ESPN and NBA
Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni gestures to a referee during his team's 105-103 loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday. D'Antoni understands why ESPN has decided to drop coverage of the Lakers' upcoming game against the Houston Rockets. (Gene Sweeney Jr. / Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Lakers have spent plenty of time in the TV glare over the years, continually logging the maximum number of games allowed by the NBA on national TV.

But this week they got a cold, hard stare from the NBA and ESPN, who decided in conjunction to drop planned coverage on ESPN of a Lakers game against the Houston Rockets in favor of a Phoenix-Minnesota game the same night, Jan. 8.

The Lakers got stranded at the TV altar?

"They'll rue the day," Coach Mike D'Antoni said jokingly, all but shaking his fist at the sky Friday morning.


It's an unusual occurrence for the TV-friendly franchise, but the Lakers (13-17) are struggling in the win column and don't have Kobe Bryant until at least late January. On the other hand, this game in question is against Dwight Howard's new team in Houston.

Ratings gold! Maybe not.

"They're doing business and you can't blame them," D'Antoni said. "That's our job now, is to make them go, 'Man, we messed that up.'"

The Lakers won't draw any extra attention from ESPN or NBA executives after their 105-103 loss Friday to a weak Utah team.

ESPN and the NBA can later decide to add another Lakers game to ESPN's slate. A team can make a maximum of 10 appearances on ESPN per season, and this week's decision knocks the Lakers down to a scheduled nine.

Discouraged no more

It used to bother D'Antoni when Lakers fans bought tickets to games in Phoenix, dotting the crowd with purple and gold jerseys.

"I thought sometimes in Phoenix it was half and half and I'm going, 'This just can't be,'" said D'Antoni, who coached the Suns for five seasons. "But then you realize as a Laker that it's unbelievable. I guess it just comes from winning. That's what happens."

With their national following, the Lakers typically play in front of plenty of fans at almost every arena.

Friday was no different, with Lakers followers creating a presence at EnergySolutions Arena. During one timeout, the scoreboard picked out several shots of people wearing Lakers jerseys on what was called the "Bandwagon Cam." They were roundly booed.

Four-point specialist

Nick Young did not convert a four-point play against Utah. Shocking.

He had been on a roll, completing basketball's most unusual scoring play in three of four games before Friday.

He had another four-point play earlier this season against Denver, already giving him more in one season than any player in Lakers history. The most Bryant ever had in a season was two.

"It feels good to be in the record books for something on the Lakers. I grew up watching them," Young said. "I would have thought Kobe would have had that already, or Derek Fisher. It's an honor."

Young has a ways to go to catch Bryant for career four-point plays (16). Sasha Vujacic had six four-point plays with the Lakers and Fisher had five.

"It is uncanny," D'Antoni said of Young. "There's a few guys that can do that. I couldn't make an open three just by myself. How they can draw the foul and be able to make it is a mystery."

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan