The NBA schedule has officially been released and we’ve gotten our glimpse of the task ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers as they try to contend with an insanely deep Western Conference and prove the doubters who think they’ll miss the playoffs wrong.
LeBron James and the Lakers will be playing notable games just about every night, but there are a few dates worth circling on the calendar for a little extra attention every so often.
We’ve already written about who the Lakers will open their season against and their opponent when LeBron plays his first home game, as well as a couple matchups with the Golden State Warriors.
We also know a few other scheduling quirks now, like the Lakers playing 13 back-to-backs, one of the lower rates in the league (some teams have 16) and the same amount they had last year. The Lakers’ longest road trip will be six games, while their longest home stand is four games.
However, there are a ton of other intriguing matchups to take a closer look at. Let’s discuss a few.
Lakers at Cavaliers — Nov. 21
LeBron’s first game back in Cleveland after his second departure is going to be fascinating. By all logical thinking, Cavs fans should by no means boo the guy who has done so much for that city and area both on the court and off of it, but fandom isn’t always logical. It’ll be really interesting to see the vibe in that building that night.
Lakers at 76ers — Feb. 10
Fans in Philadelphia aren’t known for their civility to anyone who might have even slightly wronged them, and for a while, there were quite a few people (especially in Philly) who thought the Sixers had a legitimate shot to land James. How those fans respond to his spurning them is going to be worth watching.
Raptors at Lakers — Nov. 4
Kawhi Leonard’s only game in Los Angeles this season as a Raptor is going to be fascinating. Lakers fans treated Paul George exceedingly well when he visited last year and we all saw how that turned out. Will they shower Leonard with praise in a similar fashion despite that result, or will they be a little more subdued in their approach this time around?
Thunder at Lakers — Jan. 2
Speaking of George, he probably won’t enjoy the reception he receives at Staples Center when OKC comes to visit. He spent an entire year flirting with the idea of coming to L.A. and had that godawful documentary series last summer. Frankly, he should be booed for that alone. The arena is going to be a little extra fired up for this one, and I can’t wait.
Western Conference Playoff Battle
Honestly, just about every game the Lakers play this year is going to hold just a little more meaning because of the circumstances surrounding James, the organization’s aspirations and what’s still left to be done.
With that in mind, it’s hard not to think of every game against teams like the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and any other Western Conference playoff hopeful is going to be absolutely critical. There are damn near 13 teams with legitimate playoff aspirations and only eight spots to fill. This race is going to be amazing on a nightly basis, no matter which teams are facing off.
Can this season please start already?