On Monday, Lakers fans and basketball fans alike let out a collective Daniel Bryan-esque “Yes” chant as the upcoming season’s hotly anticipated schedule was revealed.
Fresh off of what was a historic offseason filled with massive roster shakeups (only four teams are set to bring back players who played at least 75 percent of last season’s minutes), the throne reserved for the league’s head honcho is as glaringly up for grabs as it has been in recent memory.
For the Lakers, arguably still the NBA’s most marketable and marquee team, it was announced they will have a total of 12 TNT appearances this upcoming season which is tied for the most in the league and will be on national television a whopping 43 times. Insert Magic Johnson eating popcorn gif.
All eyes will be readily glued to the franchise after significantly retooling over the summer with the acquisition of superstar big man Anthony Davis, and the additions of Danny Green and DeMarcus Cousins to the team.
With the 2019-20 schedule now out in the wild, let’s take a look at which games you may want to fork over some money for, where the team may hit a snag and everything else in between.
Last season the Lakers received the short-end of the stick from the onset as eight of the team’s first ten contests came against clubs who made the playoffs the season prior, compounding what was an already bumpy adjustment period for the roster.
Luckily, the team will likely benefit from a much softer start this go-around as they will only have to face four opponents who reached the postseason last campaign (Clippers, Jazz, Spurs and Raptors) within their first ten. Only one those of which (technically two; Clippers) will be on the road.
Speaking of life on the road, the Lakers will enjoy some home cooking early and often as 10 of their first 14 games will be held at Staples Center. The team will likely want and need to perform much better in front of their fans compared to last season, though, as they went only 22-19 in their contests as the home team.
Taking advantage and defending one’s stomping ground has historically been a staple of upper echelon clubs. In fact, among the top four teams in the Western Conference last season, none registered more than 11 losses at home. That’s something the Lakers will need to try and duplicate next season.
For a team who will likely experience some expected growing pains early with the acclimation of a number of new faces and personalities, the combination of lighter competition and the added support of playing in front of their fans could potentially be exactly what they need.
When you have the likes of LeBron James and the aforementioned Davis on your roster, nearly every game will be must-see TV.
But when you also add in the fact that now almost every other team in the league employs at least one star-caliber player or an exciting aura of newness, the makings of nightly marquee contests is more readily available than ever before.
Here are just ten games that every Lakers’ fan should have circled on their Yoga Cats calendars:
Opening Night (Oct. 22): @ Clippers
“Home Opener” (Oct. 25): vs. Utah
Champs come to town (Nov. 10): vs. Toronto
Boogie Revenge game/ New look Warriors (Nov. 13): vs. Golden State
Anthony Davis’ return game (Nov. 27): @ New Orleans
Christmas Day: vs. Clippers
Zion invades L.A. and brings the Lakers’ former young core with him (Jan. 3): vs. New Orleans
Duel of the Dynamic Duo’s (Jan. 18): @ Houston
Martin Luther King Jr. Day: vs. Boston
Matchup against the abnormally gigantic Sixers (also the third game in a four night span, Jan. 25): @ Philadelphia
Beside the obvious star power and juicy storylines contained within the games listed above, the Lakers also have a particular “Big” stretch of their schedule that could end up carrying significant playoff implications. Of which, comes directly in the final weeks of the season.
If the Lakers find themselves in a dogfight for a playoff spot, or are simply vying for home court seeding, the final six games of the season could be crucial.
Thankfully, amongst those final six contests, five will occur in the friendly confines of Staples Center and against potential lottery teams (the Lakers went 23-13 against sub .500 teams last season) in Oklahoma City, Chicago, Minnesota and Phoenix. The sole road game, is mere short flight away to the Valley of the Sun.
Now this is where things could get potentially dicey for the purple and gold. The Lakers have three significant — and likely difficult — road stretches on their calendar that could cause a few bumps in the road.
Beginning on Nov. 22, the Lakers will play 12 of 15 of their games on the road, then five straight as the visiting team, including four against opponents from the Atlantic Division, who the Lakers were a Western Conference worst 1-9 against last season, and finally an exhausting six-game “roady” March 21-30.
More often than not, proving to be the most difficult wins to secure, the Lakers struggled mightily in their away contests last season going 15-26 on the year. Beside the obvious difficulties that come with having to play away from home, there is also the element of playing more difficult competition.
In early March the Lakers have arguably their toughest stretch of the season when they will be tasked with eight straight against teams who made the playoffs last season.
Although daunting, that span could help serve as a good, but tough, chance to prove their validity as one of the elite teams in the league. An area they faltered in last season, going 14-32 against teams over .500 which was tied for the second most losses against these opponents by a Western Conference team.
And The Tidbits
When trading away 99.9 percent of their young core in the Anthony Davis trade, the Lakers also emphatically moved away from being a team who could run for days to a more likely methodical and seasoned squad. Which, while definitely more helpful in terms of contending now, does also come with the less than easy task of dealing with the aches and pains that come with an 82-game season that a roster filled with youthful bodies could more easily brush off.
Thankfully, the Lakers will look to benefit from a few positive specs on their upcoming schedule to help remain fresh for what is a hopefully long playoff run.
First, the team will have one less back-to-back this season going from 13 a season ago, to just 12 this year. While one game fewer may feel insignificant, any reduction of excessive performance could prove to be season altering. Especially for a team that will be heavily dependent on their two stars to remain healthy.
The Lakers will also take a significant leap in the right direction this year in terms of total miles traveled. According to Ed Kupfer’s data, the Lakers will travel the eighth-fewest miles during the 2019-20 season as opposed to having to voyage the fourth-most a year ago.
While possessing a fair share of challenges, the schedule in its entirety is about as good as the Lakers likely could have hoped for.
The expected bumps in the road that every team faces during a calendar year likely will still remain, but now thankfully and significantly better constructed, the team will more likely be able to hurdle past them in route to their eventual destination.
Which for a team that has genuine championship aspirations — and one that will have the NBA world following each and every one of their steps — is shaping up to be an exciting season of basketball for its fans.
All stats per NBA.com unless otherwise noted. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.