THE CONCEPT OF flexible scheduling is new to the NFL, so it's no surprise the league is still struggling to get the right games on the right channels. When it takes Congress to step in and get a Super Bowl preview into most households, you know there's still some serious ironing out to be done.

Such is not the case in the NBA, and thank goodness for that. With a handful of big-name trades having changed the look of the league, ABC, ESPN and TNT find themselves working hard — and happily doing so — to rework their schedules so some suddenly intriguing matchups can go nationwide.

The impact of these trades already has been felt. ESPN drew its third-largest audience for an NBA regular-season game Wednesday when a decent Lakers-Suns matchup turned into a rare Shaq-Kobe showdown.

The flexibility in the schedule is good news for most NBA fans, but not in the Bay Area. You see, the Warriors are slated for six ESPN or TNT appearances over the final 27 games. But four of the six are serious candidates for reconsideration.

Warriors at Clippers, March 19, ESPN. Now that the Clippers have reverted to being the Clippers again, ESPN has to take a long look at Phoenix-Seattle.

Trail Blazers at Warriors, March 27, TNT. The one non-televised game on this Thursday night — Dallas-Denver — appears more attractive than anything involving the tailspinning Trail Blazers.

Nuggets at Warriors, April 10, TNT. This could be a final-week showdown for a playoff spot in the West. Even so, is that better than the Jazz and Mavericks dueling for top seeding?

SuperSonics at Warriors, April 16, ESPN. ESPN wants to be there if the Warriors clinch a playoff berth on the final night again this year. But if not, Jazz-Spurs and Hornets-Mavericks are alternatives ready to be plucked.

College networks do it, too

FSN, ABC and CBS have been scrambling to fill in wild-card slots on their college basketball schedule. Here's how Cal and Stanford are affected:

-Cal: ABC has picked up the Bears' regular-season finale at UCLA on March 8 at 12:30 p.m.

-Stanford: FSN has announced two new telecasts: Saturday at 1 p.m. against Washington State and March 6 (8 p.m.) at UCLA. CBS has snatched the March 8 game at USC for an 11 a.m. telecast.

Best thing I heard all week

Asked during FSN's "'51 Dons: Pride, Honor & Friendship" retrospective if he could play in today's NFL, former USF standout Bob St. Clair turned the tables and questioned whether the modern-day (wimps) could have played in the nose-breaking, teeth-swallowing old days. Nice. (Note: The show airs again Thursday at 2 p.m. and Friday at 12:30 p.m.)

Three you gotta see

-SuperSonics at Warriors (Today, 7:30 p.m., FSN): Disappointed Don Nelson doesn't have his club solidly in playoff position? It could be worse. P.J. Carlesimo returns tonight.

-Washington State at Cal (Thursday, 8 p.m., FSN). Every time you start to think the Bears are out of NCAA tournament contention, they win.

-Mavericks at Lakers (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., ABC): Jason Kidd is back in the Western Conference. Lucky us.

Scanning the airwaves

It appears the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest is indeed making a comeback. TNT reported the Dwight Howard-dominated competition received the highest ratings in the 23-year history of the All-Star Saturday telecast.

E-mail media-related questions and

comments to Dave Del Grande at

dave@bayareanewsgroup.com.