The NBA schedule was released on Wednesday and now every team knows the route they will travel on their marathon campaign. 82 games of ups and downs, wins and losses, and countless storylines will captivate us fans and players alike. We’ve already started this discussion with some of the games we are most/least looking forward to as well as some other general observations.
But, frankly, there is even more on our minds. With that, here are 10 more thoughts on the Lakers’ 2015-16 schedule…
1. I love that the Lakers open with the Timberwolves. It is by no means a glamorous match up pitting traditional rivals against each other, but there are a lot of match ups and intriguing stories worth discussing. On one end of the spectrum you have the #1 and #2 overall picks in Karl Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell facing off in their first regular season games. And, on the other end, you have Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant facing off on the opening night of their 21st and 20th seasons respectively. The rooks are the most recent high profile one-and-done prospects to grace the league while the veterans are the two players who ushered in the prep-to-pros era which graced us with some of the best players of a generation. Add in last year’s rookie of the year in Andrew Wiggins and the return of Julius Randle and there is no shortage of reasons why I’ll be excited about this game.
2. I love that the Lakers’ annual Grammy Road Trip is only going to be four games, but with it being so short they have to make up some of those road games somewhere. Enter a brutal December where only four of the team’s 17 games will be at Staples Center. Welp.
3. A few dates to circle on the calendar: February 19th, February 21st, March 10th, and April 3rd. In order, those may be the last times Kobe suits up in a game against Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, LeBron James, and the Boston Celtics. There are other match ups worth mentioning, but I’d say those four opponents will carry extra weight.
4. “Will it be Kobe’s last season?” will be a phrase we’ll hear, oh, roughly, 300 times in the upcoming season. I’ll be interested in how quickly Kobe tries to shut down that line of questioning from the media or if he’ll even be able to control it — especially on the road. Kobe is on record saying he won’t make up his mind until the end of the season, but if you think that’s going to stop the questions from coming, I’ve got a bridge in San Francisco to sell you. In fact, I have two.
5. The season won’t even be two weeks old when the Lakers visit New York for their only game at Madison Square Garden. This is typically a game Kobe has gotten up for and with it being early in the year, I imagine he’ll have fresh legs. I imagine a pre-game chat with old friends Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson will also give him a little extra motivation.
6. For the three weeks from Friday, November 20th through Friday, December 11th, the Lakers play 12 games. Over that stretch, D’Angelo Russell will face off against Kyle Lowry twice, Damian Lillard twice, Reggie Jackson, George Hill, Jeff Teague, John Wall, Tony Parker, and Steph Curry. Talk about a murderer’s row. And, honestly, you could take any 10 to 15 segment of the season and find a similarly brutal stretch. Just a reminder there are no nights off as a point guard in the association.
7. Of the Lakers first 10 games, only
two three of them are against playoff teams — one against the Nets and two against the Mavericks. If the Lakers want to make any noise this year — and, based on how players and front office folks are talking, they do — the team needs to start out winning some of these games against lesser teams.
8. The Lakers may have 19 national TV games (more, if you include the NBA TV contests), but only one of them is a Sunday game on ABC where they will face the defending NBA Champion Warriors. If you’re looking for evidence the league doesn’t think the Lakers will that great in spite of all the big network games, the lack of Sunday mid-day games is your evidence. When the Lakers were contenders, they lived in the 12:30 and 3:30pm time slots on Sundays as part of ABC’s double-headers.
9. As you know, the Lakers play the Clippers on Christmas Day. But did you know that game is the first time they’ll meet in the season. They play again in January and then two more times in the last week of the season on back to back nights. Somewhat related, after facing the Clips in back to back games on April 5th & 6th, the Lakers close the season against the Pelicans, Rockets, Thunder, and Jazz. If the Lakers aren’t in the playoff race themselves (which they likely won’t be), they will have a major chance to affect seeding and play spoiler against these teams who all project to be in the mix for the post-season (yes, even the Jazz).
10. Speaking of the Jazz, that will be the Lakers’ last regular season game of the year. Assuming the Lakers miss the playoffs and, if he’s healthy enough to play, it could also be Kobe’s last career game. For me, it would be somewhat fitting if Kobe closed his career against the Jazz. For years, besides the Celtics, there was probably no other team I disliked more than the Jazz. Further, it was against the Jazz where Kobe had one of the defining moments of his career when he airballed those jumpers in the 1997 playoffs. That failure, on such a visible platform, as much as anything else, served as a springboard for Kobe to become the player he was. Those missed shots reinforced for him his lack of fear and fueled his relentless drive to continue to improve. For him to end his career against that team would be, in a way, poetic.
I remember on game in particular against the Jazz where Kobe scored 52 in 3 quarters… With a then franchise record 30 in the third…11/30/2006. Kobe was recovering from offseason knee surgery. He opened up every Jazz defender that night like so many cans of soup. I really enjoyed that one!
Chemistry will be the big question mark for this team. Your not looking at a playoff team on paper, but you are looking at a team that can be really good in the regular season and possibly squeeze in to that final spot in the post season.
But it all boils down to Kobe, and how he bonds with the teammates. Everyone’s looking at Kobe right now to see how he will react to the offseason moves, and will he reach out to the new guys and kind of welcome them on board? I remember 08-09 season when Kobe took his teammates to dinners and spent more time one on one with guys to try and get them on the same page as him. And it worked! They had great season and I believe came close to winning it all that year but lost to Boston in the finals. Now obviously, this isn’t the same team as the 08-09 lakers, but my point is it’s time for Kobe to take a different approach with his teammates and with his rookies. Kobes not the 30 year old Kobe in his prime anymore, so being more of a mentor, and trying to do more fun things with teammates is really how he should end his career. You want guys to feel comfortable being them self around you so they can play at a high level. It shouldn’t be the team verse Kobe or vise versa, it should be more of a family atmosphere and working hard ‘together’ in order to get the best results this season.
I was reading on NBA.com that the Sunday midday games were mostly being replaced by Saturday night prime time games.
– NBA schedule makers giving our Lakers a good chance of starting off the season with a winning record. “The Lakers start their season with a pretty soft slate. Only four of their first 12 games are against teams that made the playoffs last season, and two of those are against the Dallas Mavericks”. ESPN report.
– Home or road games, doesn’t matter, with that being the case, Lakers should have a very good chance of a winning record at the 12 game mark…if not, this could be the beginning of another long season.
Loren M. says
If the Lakers want to make the playoffs they must win games on the road, they also need to win must win games. And they must play well at home if this team can win games on the road + games at home you may see them stack up wins fast because of all the road games. Out of the 17 home games in the 1st couple of months say if the Lakers can win at least 11 wins at home that would be good.
I think the lakers can steal a lot of games with their youth, speed and talent. Especially at the beginning of the season when players are typically out of shape. If we push the ball, we shall sneak a few victories