ESPN bumps Lakers-Rockets for Suns-Timberwolves, Cavaliers-Wizards for Pacers-Trail Blazers

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The Lakers gave Kobe Bryant a no-negotiation contract extension – in the exact opposite manner of this, to be clear – for many reasons.

One of them was undoubtedly the amount of money Kobe’s star power generates for the Lakers.

Regardless of how good Kobe is in the coming years or how good the Lakers are after spending what remains of their cap room, Kobe makes money for the team. Case in point, Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

Los Angeles and Houston are obviously bigger markets than Phoenix and Minnesota. And, as their Christmas game with the Heat showed, the Lakers can still compete with teams like the Rockets.

But Kobe will still be injured Jan. 8, and with him sidelined, the appeal is obviously much lower.

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The Cavaliers and Wizards also lost their ESPN matchup Feb. 7, according to J. Michael of CSN Washington.

Cleveland and Washington didn’t do too much wrong to get booted. As both teams hoped, they’re squarely in the playoff race, though in the Eastern Conference, that means both have losing records.

Instead, the Pacers and Trail Blazers, who will get the Feb. 7 ESPN game, just made their matchup irresistible. Each team leads its respective conference, and though few are predicting an Indiana-Portland NBA Finals, the regular-season bout should definitely draw viewers.