Mark your calendars
It's schedule day! Many of you have seen it by now- Andy and I were on the road all day for work, hence the slow post- but I thought I'd toss in a few quick at-first-glance thoughts about what the NBA's computers spit out for the Lakers this season:
- Opening night, Lakers host the Clippers. Am I the only one who thinks it a little cruel to make LA's weaker sister open against the Lakers, particularly on a night where the purple and gold will get their championship jewelry? Was the NBA's goal to make the LAC feel smaller than normal?
- The home heavy schedule: As it was last year, the Lakers spend most of the season's first quarter at Staples. 17 of the first 21, to be precise. They need to take advantage not simply because of simple math (home games early mean road games later), but because the opposition isn't overwhelmingly strong. 11 games against playoff teams from '08-'09, but only two (at Denver, vs. Dallas) against teams considered upper (or potentially upper) end. The competition is good enough to keep the Lakers on their toes, but nothing they can't handle. In that sense, I think it lays out perfectly for a team that, just as it was last season when Pau, LO, and Andrew Bynum were adjusting to life with each other, will have a few early-year adjustments to make, namely integrating Ron Artest.
- I'm curious to see if the media run-up to the Christmas Day against the Cavs will be Kobe vs. Shaq or Kobe vs. LeBron. If talent vs. talent is the measuring stick it should be the latter, but given how Shaq is likely to place himself in front of a camera or nine- I'm picturing an enormous red suit, jaunty hat, and songs about St. Shaqolas- it'll likely be the former.
- The Lakers finish their first long trip of the season (eight games) with a Feb. 1 visit to Memphis. Bynum needs to have the flu. If he doesn't, the Lakers should hire sick people to cough on his food. A lot. For good measure, let Drew sit when LA returns to Grizzlyville on the 23rd.
- Over the last three-plus weeks of the season, the Lakers see the Spurs twice. Assuming good health for both teams, early money says these games could determine the west's best record. Last year, the Spurs title hopes were scuttled by injury. I genuinely hope they stay whole this season, because the basketball world deserves one more go with the Lakers vs. this incarnation of San Antonio, and the clock is ticking.
- The Lakers get 20 back-to-backs, about par for the course in the NBA.
- Their longest trip may be in January, but LA's toughest probably comes at the end of March. Five games, including the Spurs, Thunder, Rockets, Hornets, and Hawks. All at the end of a month where the Lakers play only four games at Staples.
There will be plenty of time to debate potential records (I don't think they'll win 70), the importance of earning the league's best record (always helpful, clearly not required to win a Larry O), and more. But at least Lakers fans can start daydreaming about the '09-'10 campaign with a little more specificity.