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Thunder has become the darling of NBA television

Oklahoma City's emerging powerhouse is scheduled for national television a maximum 25 times for the 2012-2013 season.
by Berry Tramel Modified: July 26, 2012 at 9:37 pm •  Published: July 26, 2012

Out here on the prairie, on the NBA frontier, we like to claim a chip on the shoulder. Like to play the disrespect card.

But it doesn't wash. Not at this time. Not with this Thunder team.

The Thunder and the Heat will play on Christmas Day (ABC) and on Valentine's Day (TNT) and, heck, who knows, maybe even Father's Day again, next June.

You get the feeling the NBA would schedule Thunder-Heat on Armistice Day, St. Patrick's Day and National Plumbers Day (yep, there is one) if the league could get away with it.

The NBA Finals were sufficiently entertaining – four riveting games before Miami's closing blowout -- to leave pro basketball wanting more. Not just more Thunder-Heat. More Thunder in general.

The Thunder has the league-maximum 25 nationally televised games. Ten on TNT. Ten on ESPN. Five on ABC. That matches the Heat and the Knickerbockers for the NBA high. The Heat are must-see TV because Miami has the world's best team and world's best player; the Knicks because, as Batman keeps proving, millions will flock to watch Gotham City burn.

The Thunder will be nationally televised more often than the Lakers (24), and every Laker game since the explosion of cable seems to be nationally-televised. The Thunder will be nationally televised more often than the Celtics (19) or the Bulls (19) or the Spurs (16).

The annual release of the NBA schedule has become affirmation of what we think we know but aren't always sure that basketball's bluebloods have figured out, too. That this Thunder is the height of hoops entertainment.

Young, vibrant stars who fly through the air with the greatest of ease and play wildly enthralling games.

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