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Musick: We interrupt this Bulls telecast ...

CHICAGO – When TNT cable network and league executives sat down this summer to study the NBA schedule, their decision seemed like a slam dunk.

After all, in mid-January, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers would travel north to tip off against Derrick Rose and the Bulls. What a perfect opportunity for a nationally televised game as part of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day doubleheader.


Change of plans.

Don’t plan on watching the Bulls play the Lakers today on TNT. Forget about the cool aerial shots of the city’s skyline and the blunt-as-a-hammer halftime show, which is the best in sports. The two sub-.500 teams will play on WGN instead.

Because TNT, in conjunction with league officials, recently decided to boot the Bulls and Lakers from their coverage plans. Instead, the network will send a crew to cover the Portland Trail Blazers against the Houston Rockets to open its prime-time doubleheader.

Nobody at TNT was willing to speak on the record about why the change was made, so we’re left to speculate about how the conversation went down.

Here’s a guess.

The phone rings at the Berto Center. It’s late, and the only person still in the building is coach Tom Thibodeau. He’s studying grainy film of a basketball game in Iceland, hoping to find his next starting two-guard off the coast of the Arctic Ocean.

On the other line is The Suit, calling from TNT’s headquarters in Atlanta.

Thibodeau: Hello?

The Suit: Hey, coach, this is TNT calling.

Thibodeau: We have more than enough to win.

The Suit: No, coach, this isn’t an interview.

Thibodeau: We have more than enough to win.

The Suit: OK, whatever, coach. Anyway, we don’t know how to tell you this, but we’ve found somebody else. So we won’t be airing your game against the Lakers.

Thibodeau: You’re dumping us?

The Suit: Well, “dumping” is kind of a harsh term, coach. Think of it more like we’re inviting you to play your game on a different station.

Thibodeau: Gee, thanks.

The Suit: It’s not you. It’s us. You see, we really like Monday’s matchup between the Trail Blazers and the Rockets, and those teams don’t get nearly as many national telecasts as they deserve. Have you seen Portland’s point guard, Damian Lillard? He’s incredible. It’s only his second season, and he’s so explosive toward the basket. He reminds me a lot of Derrick Ro- … um, well, you know.

Thibodeau: That hurts.

The Suit: Yeah, well, the truth hurts sometimes, coach. Once you lost Rose, and especially after you traded Luol Deng, your team became really boring. And the Lakers aren’t exactly God’s gift to basketball now that Bryant is on the shelf.

Thibodeau: But we’d be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

The Suit: Whoop dee doo. Take away the Heat and the Pacers, and have you seen how pathetic the rest of the Eastern Conference has been this season? My lawn ornament would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

Thibodeau: You have a lawn ornament?

The Suit: That’s not the point.

Thibodeau: OK, fine. Take your cameras to Houston. We don’t need you anyway.

The Suit: Listen, coach, this isn’t a forever goodbye. We’ll still plan to broadcast some Bulls games, you know, when we don’t have any other options.

Thibodeau: You’re really pushing it, pal.

The Suit: You’re right. I apologize. Tell the folks at WGN that we said hello.

Thibodeau: I can’t believe you’re dumping us.

The Suit: You’ll be fine. See you in the playoffs.

• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at and on Twitter @tcmusick.

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