The Los Angeles Lakers are about to enter the toughest stretch of their season from a travel perspective. The Lakers are one of the 21 NBA teams forced to play four times in five nights this season, and the Lakers will do so with all four coming on the road.
Los Angeles will hit the road to play the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, followed by a match-up with the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. The team will have Thursday off, but then face the Toronto Raptors on Friday night and conclude the stretch by heading to the Grindhouse to take on the Memphis Grizzlies in a Saturday night showdown.
While it sounds like Julius Randle will return during the four-game stint, playing four NBA games in five nights is one of the hardest things teams have to do. Doing so with travel to a new city and hotel each night (while backtracking randomly) makes it even more difficult, and Lakers head coach Luke Walton isn’t thrilled about it:
“We’re going from the South to the North, from the North back to the South, it makes zero sense,” Walton said on Lakers.com. “You do your best as far as preparing just trying to take one game at a time.”
Silver Screen and Roll used our proprietary travel analytics program (we call it “Google Maps”) and Walton appears to have a point:
Those are the Lakers’ travel stops in order, and that backtrack to Memphis makes this road trip significantly tougher than it would have been had the Lakers gone to these destinations in geographic order. The entire journey will feature approximately 4,313 miles of travel for the team, plus the always enjoyable two trips through customs while heading in and out of Canada.
The NBA has cut down on teams playing four games in five nights in recent years, from 70 in 2013-14 to 27 in 2015-16, and the 2016-17 season has just 21 teams forced to go through the gauntlet. The Lakers were just unlucky here, and how they get through this trip will play a large part in determining if they will still look like as strong of a playoff contender by this time next week.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here and listen to the latest episode below, in which we discussed the ridiculous stretch of travel the Lakers are about to embark on), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.