We already knew some of the highlights of the 2020-21 NBA schedule for the Los Angeles Lakers. The team is set to open the season against the LA Clippers, and will also have a fun showdown with the Dallas Mavericks — and LeBron James’ favorite, Luka Doncic — on Christmas Day, as well as as showdown with the Golden State Warriors at home on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
But on Friday, the league revealed the rest of the first half of the regular season schedule, so we got a first look at half of the path the Lakers will take as they look to defend their title.
On the flip-side, the Lakers will come back for some home- cooking right on the heels of that tough road trip when they host Denver, Detroit, OKC (twice) and Memphis. Nice chance to pad whatever was lost on that trip. pic.twitter.com/z5LZAj7er7— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) December 4, 2020
This also features some of the travel and coronavirus-related scheduling that we expected, like the Lakers spending five early games in a San Antonio/Memphis pod, and several baseball series-style back-to-backs against the same teams.
But as the league said in its press release about the preseason, the reason that they’re only releasing the first half of the schedule now is because it “will include the remainder of each team’s 72 games not scheduled in the First Half as well as any games postponed during the First Half that can reasonably be added to the Second Half schedule.”
Basically, the NBA is expecting coronavirus-related cancellations as it begins its season outside of a bubble while the pandemic continues to rage, and as a result will reveal the second-half schedule — covering March 11 through May 16 — later on. A fairly dystopian acknowledgement to be sure, albeit at the very least an honest and sober one.
As far as the Lakers go, though, the specifics of this schedule don’t necessarily change the expectations. This team will likely load manage their players at least a decent amount as they go through the shortest post-title turnaround in NBA history, and given that the Lakers have already shown what they can do when it matters, the regular season shouldn’t be as important to them anyway. We know what LeBron James and Anthony Davis can do in the playoffs.
Still, the Lakers’ roster changeover will give us plenty of reasons to still pay close attention during the regular season. How will Marc Gasol fare as a replacement for Dwight Howard/JaVale McGee? Can Wesley Matthews ably replace what Danny Green provided? Will the punch Dennis Schröder and Montrezl Harrell provide offensively makeup for the possible defensive drawbacks of that duo? Plus, the addition of Harrell should make games against a Clippers team that essentially ousted him that were already crackling with competitiveness even more firework-laden.
We had a good idea of what games this year would be fun to watch, and even if there will be some duds in between, now we at least have a better sense of when they will all take place.
What matchups are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments below. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.