Quick-hit thoughts on the Lakers' 2010-2011 schedule
Five games to watch on the Lakers' schedule:
1. Versus Houston (Oct. 26): It's the season-opener where the Lakers will have their ring ceremony. Even if it's not a marquee matchup, there's an easy storyline. Ron Artest finally participates in the ring ceremony, while Trevor Ariza stands off to the side.
2. At Phoenix (Oct. 29): Even if Amare Stoudemire shipped out to New York, there will still be plenty of intrigue in this West Finals matchup
3. Versus Miami (Dec. 25): Does this really need an explanation? Watch Miami's quest to surpass the 72-win mark, or so Jeff Van Gundy says. Watch the Lakers try to prove the Vegas odds-makers wrong that pin the Heat as next season's favorites.
4. Versus Oklahoma City (Jan. 17): Will Phil Jackson continue to needle Kevin Durant? Does the Thunder come into this matchup with more confidence after giving the Lakers a first-round test? Or will the Lakers try to put them away early to prove they're still the team to beat in the West?
5. Versus Boston (Jan. 30): It's a chance for Laker fans to taunt the Celtics for L.A's 2010 title win as well as plenty of chances to yell new nicknames at Shaquille O'Neal.
General impressions: The Lakers won't be able to sleepwalk their way through the beginning of the season, much like they did last year. They benefited from opening the season by playing 17 of their first 21 games at Staples Center, which surely helped the team absorb Pau Gasol's hamstring injury for the first 11 games. The Lakers have mainly used this off-season to get healthy, and they'll need it. Their first 21 games consist of 12 at home and nine on the road. The Lakers have two significant trips including a six-game swing from Dec. 9-19 (Chicago, New Jersey, Washington, Indiana, Philadelphia and Toronto) and a seven-game trip from Feb. 4-16 (New Orleans, Memphis, Boston, New York, Orlando, Charlotte and Cleveland). But the team only has 15 back-to-backs after having 20 last season.
The 2011 new year will immediately feature some tough match-ups, including Oklahoma City (Jan. 17), Dallas (Jan. 19), Denver (Jan. 21) and Utah (Jan. 25) and a five-game trip against San Antonio (March 6), Atlanta (March 8), Miami (March 10) and Dallas (March 12). But 11 of their 15 remaining games will be at home, meaning it could present both a curse and a blessing. That schedule could help with getting rest for the postseason, but it could easily tempt the Lakers into just going through the motions before the playoffs. It could give the bench plenty of run, but that might be a mixed blessing based on whether it will be more consistent this season.
What are your thoughts on the schedule? Share your thoughts and I'll feature the best comments in a post on Wednesday.
-- Mark Medinamgmedin@gmail.com