So as you have seen earlier this week from our man, Zephid, he had a breakdown of the Lakers’ season schedule. As he had mentioned, the Lakers have 16 back-to-backs. Also of note is that the Lakers are starting their schedule out home-friendly as usual; 9 of their first 11 games are at the comfort of Staples Center. And their longest road trip is during that annual Grammy road trip; they will have a 7-game trek out of Staples. I’m just glad that we’re back to the normal, spread-out 82-game schedule so there will be none of those wacky back-to-back-to-backs.
So what games do we have marked on our calendars? I asked the Forum Blue & Gold Crew on what three games they are looking forward to the most. Let me start it off then I’ll have the rest of the guys take it from there.
OCT. 31 @ PORTLAND: We know that the Blazers and their fans always get up for the Lakers. Even though they’re kind of going through a rebuilding phase at the moment, they have their prized rookie point guard, Dame Lillard. He dominated Summer League and I’m curious how he’ll do on his very first NBA game. And what a test it’ll be for him.
FEB. 7 @ BOSTON: It’d be kind of silly if we DON’T have this marked on our calendars. We know how this goes. Lakers Vs Celtics. And this will be their first meeting of the season (they meet again on February 20). It’s a revamped Laker team against a revamped Celtic team. They may no longer have that “Big 4″ but they still have Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo. And they now have Jason Terry, who has climbed his way amongst the ranks of “Laker enemies.” Either of these teams haven’t won a title since 2010 but that doesn’t make this game any less compelling.
APR. 7 @ L.A. CLIPPERS: This is the final meeting in four games between these Los Angeles teams but this one is deep into the season and can have some major playoff implications. I expect the Clippers and the Lakers to fight tooth and nail for playoff positioning and the division championship throughout the year. And with the rivalry only growing, this is a must-watch for me.
Okay, dudes. Take it.
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DEC. 7 @ OKLAHOMA CITY: The Lakers first return trip to the place where they got knocked out of the playoffs last season. How will the old, new-look Lakers match up with the young, same-look Thunder? Who is MWP going to foul hard in the first 10 seconds to set the tone?
JAN. 30 @ PHOENIX: Steve Nash’s return to Phoenix. How will the Suns crowd receive him, and will Kobe continue to put on a show against the Suns, even with 100% of those SSOL Suns gone?
FEB. 20 v BOSTON: In the first game back after the All-Star break, will the Lakers look sharp for the stretch run against their hated rivals, or will they come out lethargic? Who is MWP going to foul hard in the first 10 seconds to set the tone? (Who am I kidding? We all know it’s gonna be Paul Pierce.)
NOV. 2 v L.A. CLIPPERS: I would have had a Friday night game against the Clippers penciled in anyway but there’s the matter of Lamar Odom and Grant Hill. I’m always intrigued by player dynamics, old friendships, history, rivalries, whatever. Here, it’s more than that – it’s Lamar coming off a train wreck of a season with Dallas and returning to the team that drafted him, and memories of his younger days with Brand, Maggette, and the Kandi-man.
DEC. 7 @ OKLAHOMA CITY: By this point, the weather will be getting nice and chilly, and another great Friday night match-up for a nationally televised game. Any game against the Thunder will be one to watch this year. They’re an elite team, they stand in our way, they have been denying us, and this one will be on their turf. We get to see what we’re made of here.
APR. 14 v SAN ANTONIO: This is all the way at the tail end, the second to last game on the schedule. Anything can have happened by this point. It could easily be one of those games where Pop rests his starters but we won’t know the playoff implications until we get there. I always look forward to the Spurs match-ups; there’s a lot of history, veterans against veterans, and watching Popovich coach is one of the great joys in basketball for me.
NOV. 23 @ MEMPHIS: The Lakers will face their first true physical test at the Grindhouse on the road when they take on a tough and physical Grizzlies team that features too bruising big men in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. It may be an early season game, but this will be one of the team’s first big tests of the young season and it will give Mike Brown a semblance of idea to how his roster responds to a a team whose identity is all about hustle.
DEC. 13 @ NEW YORK: Kobe Bryant has very few years left in the league, which also means that his trips to Madison Square Garden are close to coming to an end. With Spike Lee in the building as well as a passionate Knicks crowd, expect Kobe to have a game to remember at the Garden.
JAN. 20 @ TORONTO: Steve Nash makes his lone appearance in Canada when the Lakers travel to take on the Toronto Raptors. For whatever reason, the Raptors have had a knack for playing well against the Lakers at the ACC but have seen Kobe burn them repeatedly down the stretch of games. Combine that with perhaps some mixed reactions from the fans in attendance about Nash picking Los Angeles over Toronto — an easy decision really — and, well, we have something close to resembling a playoff setting.
OCT. 30 v DALLAS: There are few things I love over the course of an NBA season than opening night. As someone as consumed with the NBA as much as I am, the off-season always makes the days move at a snail’s pace. It’s not the most glamorous Opening Night game, but it’s a return to hoops and hopefully the beginning of another title run.
FEB. 5 @ BROOKLYN: It’ll be the first time the Lakers play in the new Barclay’s Arena against the New Je… er Brooklyn Nets. I’m not as interested in the matchup as I am in the newness of the arena and the jerseys.
FEB. 14 v L.A. CLIPPERS: We saw how chippy the Lakers/Clippers matches were last season, this year they’ll get to play on Valentine’s day for the collective heart of the city (cue Jay-Z). Point God v. Point God. Blake Griffin trying to murder the Lakers front line. Kobe. Staples Center. Divisional positioning. What more could you ask for?
NOV. 2 v L.A. CLIPPERS: Finally!
Lamar Odom once again playing home games at Staples Center. Steve Nash and Grant Hill back under the same roof. Sort of. The two best point guards of the past decade – both acquired via trade by the Lakers, one successfully – squaring off for the first time as residents of the same building.
At long last, pro basketball in L.A. has some storylines to follow.
DEC. 13 @ NEW YORK: C’mon now! It’s New York! The city that never sleeps, Rucker, Spike Lee, the Mecca… seriously, how many opportunities does one get to grapple with a solid #7 seed, in front of 18,000 Finals-priced seats- before Christmas?
(Yeah. I’ll be in one of them. Sigh.)
Plus, our almost-40 point guard can smoke their almost-40 point guard. So that should be fun.
JAN. 30 @ PHOENIX: Barring a disappointing effort from the Lakers (crazy talk, I know, but humor me), the drama should not extend too far past the opening tip. That said, for as long as this contest is close, it will be must-see TV.
One of the greatest and most beloved players in franchise history, returning to the floor he so artfully ruled for nearly a decade, to the fans he repeatedly refused to leave in the lurch. Unfortunately for the locals, there’s not a uniform they’d less like to see him in.
As giddy as I am to have Steve Nash on the Lakers, my heart will go out to Suns fans during this one.
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So what games are you guys looking forward to the most? Discuss!