Lakers stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
In Los Angeles, many Lakers fans have greater concerns than the franchise's quest to tie the Boston Celtics with a 17th championship.
The birth of Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes has left approximately two-thirds of the Southern California market without a channel to watch Lakers games in their homes.
Time Warner Cable has yet to reach major distribution deals with DirecTV, Dish, Verizon, AT&T, Cox and Charter. The lone agreement in place is with Bright House Networks, little consolation to those hitting sports bars or searching for friends with access for their Lakers fix.
It was already a difficult pill to swallow for those without basic cable; Lakers games were no longer a "free" broadcast. At least in the KCAL era, away games were available on network television.
Now, even those happy to pay are out of the mix unless they have Time Warner Cable (or Bright House) as their direct provider.
Recently, a longtime Lakers fan (and trusted friend) found himself channel surfing on DirecTV at 2 p.m. last Thursday, when he noticed a strange anomaly.
Instead of the scheduled "I Hate My Kitchen" on the DIY Network (channel 230), the Time Warner SportsNet program "Laker Girls" was broadcast unannounced.
Is a deal imminent between Time Warner Cable and DirecTV?
There was nothing said to The Times by either provider to suggest that the airing of "Laker Girls" was a significant event, or that it happened at all.
"Yes, we often test signals before a channel launch, but only when we have an agreement in place and have the programmer's authorization," said Robert Mercer, director of public relations for DirecTV in an email to The Times. "We are engaged in discussions with TW to carry the Lakers Net, but have not yet reached an agreement."
Time Warner Cable responded with a statement, "Negotiations with TV providers to carry Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes are ongoing. There is a significant demand from Lakers fans for these two networks and we are working very hard to reach agreements with all TV providers in Southern California so that fans can watch the games they love.”
Certainly the clock becomes a factor with the regular season set to begin on Oct. 30. The Lakers are to host the Dallas Mavericks, a game to be aired nationally on TNT.
The first Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Deportes broadcasts are set for the following night on Halloween, when the Lakers visit the Portland Trail Blazers.
There may be signs that something gets done with DirecTV before then, but until there's a deal ... there's no deal.
So what can the concerned and/or obsessed fan do in the meantime?
Go to the Lakers' website, via the links www.iwantmylakers.com and www.quieromislakers.com, to help voice concerns and apply pressure. Another option would be calling 855-4-MY-LAKERS and, in Spanish, 800 700 2827.
Otherwise, hit the sports bars or lean on a friend.
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