The Lakers schedule has been a topic of much discussion early this season. There is talk that the Lakers early slate of home games gives them an unfair advantage. There has been discussion of how many home games the Lakers play on Sundays, and how that could be considered favoritism as well. One can always mention how the Lakers have two extra home games every season (via the Clippers) and countless others in less hostile environments than one might normally find for road games.
Each of these arguments has a counter point. You could point out that an easy starting schedule and a hard ending schedule could be considered worse than a tough start and an easy finish. Yes, the Lakers play at home a lot on Sundays, but the significance of it is definitely questionable. As for the extra "home" games, there really isn't any arguing against it, but there's also nothing that can be done about it. It is the result of the Lakers being consistently good and consistently relelvant, enough so that they have more fans across the country than probably any other NBA team.
But I haven't heard anybody latch on to what seems like as clear cut a schedule advantage as you can generally have in the NBA. Actually, advantage is the wrong word, because this discrepancy certainly won't influence the result of too many games. The correct term for it is an act of generosity from the NBA to the Lakers, an act of kindness that no other NBA team received. See, the Lakers were the only team in the league which did not play on either side of the Thanksgiving holiday. Their last game was Tuesday, and today is their first game back. Every other team in the league has played at least once in the last three days. 4 teams played on Thanksgiving Day itself. Quite a few teams have played twice over the last three days. But the Lakers got the day before Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving itself, and the day after Thanksgiving, off. For the Lakers, the Thanksgiving holiday was actually a holiday. Thank you NBA!
I'm 100% sure this scheduling irregularity is a fluke. For all I know, Staples has been booked the last few days. Maybe the league is paying the Lakers back for playing every single Christmas Day for the past 5 years, often on the road (this year the Lakers play at home on Christmas). Maybe the league didn't even know about it. It doesn't matter, but I figured I'd beat anybody to the punch if they mentioned a superficial detail of the schedule which fell in the Lakers favor.
After the jump, we'll discuss both teams and some matchups.
Catching Up with the Lakers
Life is good for L.A. right now. Besides being able to enjoy three days off at the same time that their families could also enjoy some time off, the team has been firing on all (starting) cylinders for the last few games. 4 double digit victories in a row, against admittedly poor competition. Since the competition is getting worse instead of better, it is fairly safe to assume that the good times will continue to roll. As Dallas proved last week in losing to this same Warriors team, anything can happen on any given night, but anything short of two more double digit victories will be considered a disappointment for this back-to-back, and a loss of any kind would be downright embarassing.
Catching Up with the Warriors
There can be no group of NBA fans more worthy of pity than fans of the Warriors (I take it back, NBA fans in Seattle have it worse). Warriors fans somehow remain passionate despite the fact that their team has had only 2-3 years of relevance (for good reasons) in the past 15 years. And now they are being treated to yet another historic meltdown. Don Nelson seems to be anti-coaching the team, alienating the entire roster and refusing to play talents that have shown to be worthy of being played. They've built the team around a player who got hurt for most of the last season because he was riding a moped. They just traded one of their best players for cents on the dollar, and they recently played (and won) a game while dressing only SIX players. It's going to be a rough season for this team and their awesome fans.
Catching Up with the Nets
Oooph. Talking about the Nets makes the previous paragraph seem pleasant. The Nets seem to have set their sights on a historically bad season. 16 games in, they are still on pace for an 0-82 season. A loss against the Lakers (which seems as close to a certainty as can possibly occur in professional sports) will see the team tie the record for futility to start the season (matching, you guessed it, the Clippers in 1999). The New York Knicks have been tanking for multiple years in preparation for this summer's free agent bonanza, but the Nets are showing the Knicks that he who tanks last, tanks best.
Matchups with the Warriors
Lakers starting 5: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol, Bynum.
Lakers bench: Farmar, Brown, Odom
Warriors starting 5: Radmonovic, Morrow, Moore, Ellis, Curry
Warriors bench: Magette, Randolph, Watson, Turiaf and Bell (questionable)
Apologies for not knowing much about the lineups for the Warriors, but in my defense I'm not sure their coach knows a lot about the Warriors lineups right now. With Stephen Jackson gone, the roster is definitely still falling into place, and their injuries of late have been ridiculous. It would not suprise me at all to see a different lineup that what I've put up there.
But what is up there is incredibly small, compared to the Lakers incredibly big lineup. The lineup the Warriors started in the last game contains three players who don't even have the size to guard Kobe. Who are they going to put on Ron Artest? But these things always go two ways, so the Lakers ability to contain a bunch of small quick guards will go a long way to making sure this doesn't become a game. I just don't see how it works though, so don't look for this to become a game. Unless, of course, the Lakers roster is all fat off of Thanksgiving turkey and comes out slow. Hopefully the Lakers will be careful, because if ever a place is capable of providing magic to the home squad, Oracle arena is that place.
Matchups with the Nets
Nets starting 5: Hassell, Boone, Harris, Douglass-Roberts, Lopez
Wow. Have you ever seen an NBA roster so lacking in talent? Don't get me wrong, Harris can be a top notch player, and Lopez has some ability. But I count at least 4 players that wouldn't even make the Lakers roster playing major minutes in New Jersey. The Nets start two "defensive" players that barely need to be guarded on offense (Hassel and Boone, who combine to provide about 13 points per game). And those players don't even have very good reputations regarding their defense.
If the Nets had any talent, they could be an interesting matchup, because they boast one of the league's few decent true centers, in Brook Lopez, and perhaps it's quickest guard (i.e. Lakers kryptonite), Devin Harris. But the lack of talent on this team is so stunning that you might be able to see the Lakers crappy bench extend a lead in the inevitable garbage time of this game. Matchup analysis for this team is a waste of my time to write, and your time to consume.