The NBA announced Tuesday that they will release the schedule for the 2018-19 opening week, the 2018 Christmas Day slate, and Martin Luther King Day on Wednesday.
This is the usual high-anxiety announcement for Toronto Raptors fans, who have felt slighted in recent years as the team reached new heights in terms of competitiveness and success without the commensurate prime-time coverage. The reasons, of course, are well known – the NBA works with their American television partners on these decisions, and because Canadian ratings don’t “count” (games are broadcast on TSN or Sportsnet), the Raptors have a tougher hill to climb. Essentially, they have to be interesting enough at the league/national level to out-strip the value of a local U.S. market, and with only 10 teams getting the vaunted Christmas Day slots, that’s a tall order.
Too much has probably been made about this in the past, as the Raptors have had a decent number of nationally televised games in general, and their playoff ratings have done fairly well in the U.S. Plus, it’s probably nice for everyone to get Christmas off. At the same time, the team in the past has spoken about how they see it as a sort of matter of respect, and the team’s entire marketing ethos the last half-decade has been built around the othering that being the league’s Canadian outpost invites. In other words, it’s at the same time understandable why they haven’t gotten marquee games, why some wouldn’t care, and why some are bothered by it. There’s nuance.
With all of that said, the Raptors would seem ready-made for either an opening-night or Christmas Day game this year, as they made themselves far more interesting by flipping DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard in July’s four-player trade. There are hurt feelings, there is drama, there is mystery around Leonard’s health and fit and the team’s new head coach, and there is an obvious opponent in the San Antonio Spurs. What it will likely come down to is whether the NBA is willing to bump the Knicks or Bulls out of those games despite their enormous markets on account of the teams being quite terrible. If the NBA shoehorns them in for the east coast games, the Raptors could be in tough. If not, Toronto would seem on paper to be a fit after Boston and Philadelphia are considered.
So, with all of that said. Do you think the Raptors will get a Christmas Day game? Do you want one? Is it Spurs or bust?
Let’s hear it.
The entire NBA schedule came out between Aug. 11 and 14 the last four years, by the way, so I’d expect that next week.
UPDATE: The Raptors are not getting a game, based on multiple reports. We’ll wait for the official announcement to confirm, because there’d been some conflicting info out there, but this appears to be the slate:
Bos/Phi, Mil/NY, OKC/Hou, LAL/GSW, Por/Uta appears to be the slate, in some order.
— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) August 8, 2018