It's Christmas in August!
Or at the very least, we all know what we'll be doing on Christmas...while we're still in August.
The 2014-2015 NBA schedule was released for all 30 teams Wednesday afternoon, including the 82-game slate for every franchise. Topping the list are the all-important opening night, home opener and of course prestigious Christmas Day roster of games that has been known to cause quite a few angry barbs thrown my way at the MAMBINO house.
Looking at LA's season, a few distinct points fly out at me:
- For all of our negativity and pessimistic outlooks on the team's chances next season, the Lakers still have 28 nationally televised games on ABC, ESPN, NBA TV and TNT. That's just 1 less than last year's 29, which, as we all know was slightly less as the Lake Show was taken off ESPN and NBA TV several times on their way to the lottery.
- The Lakers will still be one of the NBA's spotlight teams on opening night, playing Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets in the second of TNT's double-header (following the World Champion San Antonio Spurs being presented their Finals rings before facing the Dallas Mavericks).
- LA will play in its 16th consecutive Christmas Day game, squaring off in Chicago against Pau Gasol's Bulls. It'll be the first time the Spaniard plays his old teammates in what should be a bizarre, but emotional affair.
- At 8pm EST/5pm PST, this Christmas Day game will also the latest the Lakers have played since 2003, when the Shaquille O'Neal/Karl Malone/Gary Payton/Kobe Bryant Lakers played Yao Ming's Houston Rocket's at 5:30pm PST at STAPLES Center. They've traditionally been in the "primetime" 2pm PST spot. It's also the first time they've played on the road on December 25th since 2006, when they played the Heat in Miami.
- Christmas Day is also, please keep in mind, Carlos Boozer's bonzo-gonzo REVENGE GAME against the team that just amnestied him.
- The Lakers will still have two very prestigious Sunday showcase games on ABC. By contrast, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls have five and both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Clippers will have four.
- The annual Grammy Road trip has been hacked down to a mere four games this season, beginning February 1st in New York and ending February 8th in Cleveland.
- The Lakers have 16 back-to-back sets this year.
The biggest takeaway here? It doesn't matter that we here at Silver Screen & Roll think the Lakers are going to be a pitiful, defensive disaster. There's no point in citing how awful a coach Byron Scott is. Who cares if Jim Buss is incompetent or not? The bottom line is this: the Los Angeles Lakers brand still means something to the NBA, but more importantly, the name Kobe Bryant means that people will watch their television sets when he's on it. The team will still be on a ton of nationally televised games, regardless of how bad they might be.
Let's take a look at some of the other noteworthy parts of the schedule:
- The Lakers get their first tangle with the their hallmate Clippers on Halloween. Their second matchup doesn't come until early in January (January 7th, @ Clippers) and then a back-to-back set at the tail end of the season (April 5th and 7th).
- Kobe Bryant will play Dwight Howard for the first time since the big man signed with the Rockets on October 28th, opening night, as Bean missed all Houston games last season with his various leg injuries. Jeremy Lin too won't have to wait long to show up his old squad, as this will be his first game since being traded by the Rox.
- LA will get their first look at the newly crowned five-time champion San Antonio Spurs on ESPN on November 14th at STAPLES Center.
- The Lakers will have their first tangle of the season with the hated Celtics at Boston on December 5th and then at home on February 22nd. No matter what their respective records, this game will mean something to both sides (though apparently, not much to the national networks--only the February game will be telecast across these United States, and that's on NBA TV).
- The new-look but still reigning Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat visit STAPLES on January 13th (which won't be nationally televised), while the Lakers will visit South Beach on March 4th.
- The very next game, January 15th, LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers will play the Show at STAPLES in the first game between the two teams that won't involve a slumbering Chris Kaman.
- If he's active and on the team at that point, Steve Nash will have what should be his final farewell to Phoenix on January 19th, when the team faces the Suns in US Airways Arena for Nash's final time.
- Pau Gasol makes his first trip to STAPLES Center as a visitor since 2007, when the Chicago Bulls play the Lakers on January 29th. Hopefully the fans will pay the big man the proper respect he deserves...and then promptly start to boo him after his first no-look pass leads to a Dougie McBuckets three.
- The Lakers make their annual pilgrimage to Madison Square Garden on February 1st, where Jeremy Lin and Kobe Bryant will hopefully combine to score 70 points on the Knicks, rather than on one another.
- Derek Fisher will be making his coaching debut versus the Lakers in LA on March 12th when the Knickerbockers come to town.
- In the likely event that it's their last game of the season (I'M JUST KEEPIN' IT REAL), April 15th could be the very last game of Steve Nash's career, when the Lakers play the Sacramento Kings at home.
Road trips and toughest stretches
- The Lakers have a brutal November schedule, playing 10 of their 14 games against last year's playoff teams (Golden State, Memphis, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte and Toronto) and another against Phoenix, who narrowly missed the postseason.
- With the Lakers having a shockingly truncated Grammy Road Trip, it'd seem like that would be a boon for the team. Not to be. The Show will still play five roadies in six games, including tough ones at New York, Cleveland and Portland between February 1st and February 8th. To make matters worse, the preceding three games will be homers versus Houston, Washington and Chicago.
- The longest road trip of the season will be just five games in late March. Still, for a presumably exhausted team, even the skill level of the opponents might not matter. From March 24th to March 30th, the Lakers will face off against OKC, Minnesota, Toronto, Brooklyn and Philadelphia.
- Though it's not against the most premium competition, the Lakers will play three games in four nights from December 2nd to 5th (@ Detroit, @ Washington and @ Boston). But unfortunately, all of their other "three in four" are brutal: December 12th to 15th (@ San Antonio, @ Minnesota and @ Indiana), December 25th to December 28th (@ Chicago, @ Dallas and Phoenix), January 4th to January 7th (Indiana, @ Portland and @ Clippers), February 8th to February 11th (@ Cleveland, Denver and @ Portland), March 22nd to March 25th (Philly, @ OKC and @ Minnesota), March 27th to March 30th (@ Toronto, @ Brooklyn and @ Philly), April 5th to April 8th (Clippers, @ Clippers and @ Denver) and April 12th to April 15th (Dallas, @ Sacramento and Sacramento)
Home stands and easiest stretches
- Again, the Lakers have been blessed without any road trips lasting longer than five games this year. That's a win all on its own!
- The Lakers will have six out of eight games at home to begin 2015, with none out of the Pacific time zone and just one (@ Portland) away from STAPLES Center. Sadly, only two will be against prospective non-playoff teams (Indiana and Orlando).
- Like most of the league, February should be a breeze for the Lakers. Now with a nine day All-Star break, LA will end the month facing Brooklyn, Boston, @ Utah and Milwaukee after a nice, well-deserved vacation. Even before that, the Show will face Denver, @ Orlando and @ Milwaukee. Awesome.
- The Lakers will have a nice stretch from March 8th to March 22nd where six of their seven contests are at home and none are out of the state of California. In that "home state stand", they'll play Detroit, New York, Atlanta, Utah and Philly.
- Though they'll have to face the Clippers in a tough home-and-home set, April isn't too terrifying. They'll play New Orleans, Denver, Minny and Sacto twice.
After taking a long look at the schedule, the roughest part of the Lakers' year is...the entire damn thing. Why? Because they'll be a Western Conference team. With nine squads in the conference potentially threatening to win 50 games and hungry, young lottery teams like the Kings, Suns and Pelicans looking to move into the postseason bracket, the Lakers have over half their games against those twelve squads.With only two games max against the bottom feeders of the Eastern Conference, the Lakers are already playing at a distinct disadvantage.
If LA can weather a tough early season schedule, a bad stretch in late March and take advantage of a relatively favorable January and February, perhaps they can be much better than everyone has forecast them to be. Regardless of how the slate will affect the Lakers this year, with Kobe Bryant in the fold, there should still be a grip of in-season highlight games to keep our attention over all 82.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino