Breaking Down the New Schedule
This is always one of those days during the summer that quenches a bit of the thirst for NBA news, and gets you thinking about the season. The season always feels closer, regardless of the situation, when you've got a schedule in front of you.
Now, the NBA schedule has been released.
Perhaps it's because we always have more time to do such things during the summer, but it always takes me a while to totally go over a new league schedule. I tend to stop on certain road trips, or tough months, and go way too deep. Because I travel with the team, certain road trips, or portions of the schedule, have a much greater impact than they would if I wasn't travelling. Yes, that includes checking our schedule around holidays, birthdays, and things like that.
The first thing that jumped out at me, when looking at this new schedule, is that I'll be home, and off, on a Halloween for the first time in what seems like forever. This isn't as significant as other holidays, but because of the late start for the Blazers this season, we're not opening the regular season until November 3rd. Last season, by comparison, we had already played FIVE regular-season games by November 3rd.
When the season does begin, we'll be opening at home, once again. It's the third-straight year we'll open the season at the Rose Garden. And, the November 3rd start is the latest start to a season since 2004-05.
Like last year, as soon as we open at home we hit the road. It's Denver on the 3rd, and then off on a three-game trip to the Clippers, Phoenix, and Denver.
Nate McMillan's teams traditionally start quickly, but this November will be a big challenge. I think it's one of the more difficult months of the schedule for the Blazers. Not only are three of the first four games away from home, but there are nine road games in all and only six at home. That includes a stretch of six of seven on the road to close the month. It also includes a four-game trip back east, that will have us playing at Indiana, Milwaukee, Charlotte, and Detroit.
The end of November is very odd. We've got a two-game road trip that has us at Dallas, and then at Atlanta. I have never seen a schedule that has us travelling clear across the country to play just two games. The Atlanta road game is always bunched with other games in the eastern time zone, and is never off on its own like this. Very strange.
December is a bit more favorable, as the month only shows five road games. They aren't easy, however. We'll play the Lakers in L.A. on December 4th, have a three game road trip to Phoenix, Memphis, and San Antonio in the middle of the month, and then play at Houston on New Year's Eve.
The obvious change to December, from past seasons, is that we are not playing on Christmas Day this year. It's the first time since the 06-07 season we'll be home for Christmas, and won't be playing. The Blazers will host Phoenix on the 23rd, and then host the Clippers on the 26th.
The first game of 2012 will have the Blazers in Oklahoma City. The thing that jumps off the page in January is the brutal six-game road trip in the middle of the month. Starting January 13th, we'll play at San Antonio, Houston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Washington, and Chicago, before returning home on the 24th to play the Lakers. In all, January has us gone for 10 road games, and home for only five. Not an easy mohth.
February is the lightest month of the schedule, in terms of travel. The Blazers only have a couple of short two-game road trips, and play eight home games during the month. But, the last four road games of the month have us playing at New Orleans, Dallas, Utah, and Denver. The All-Star Break falls between those last two road games. The Blazers play at Utah on the 22nd, and then are off until the 29th, when they'll play at Denver.
You might want to hide your eyes when looking at the month of March. I'm starting to pack my bags as we speak. Not only is March packed with 17 games (tied for the most in that month in franchise history), it features a brutal seven-game, 13-day trip. We haven't had a trip like that since the 07-08 season, and that was also a seven-game game trip. Last season our longest road trip was four games. That trip will see us visit Minnesota, Boston, Toronto, Cleveland, New York, Orlando, and Miami. We'll have to pack a winter coat for Canada, and then the bathing suit for Florida. That's a little odd. Also, the month starts with a home game, but it's a home game against the Miami Heat, as they make their lone Portland appearence on March 1st.
The good news (other than March ending) is that April is pretty favorable to the Blazers. There will be six home games, and only three road games. In fact, after that monster seven-game trip in March, 11 of Portland's final 16 games are at home. Four of the last five games of the regular season are at the Rose Garden. That stretch goes Houston, Golden State, Dallas, at Sacramento, and Utah to close things out on April 18th. That's also the latest end to a regular season since 06-07.
Each season you end up playing four teams in your conference only three times (everyone else you play four times). The west teams the Blazers only get three times this season are Dallas (one home, two road), the Lakers (one home, two road), Golden State (two home, one road), and New Orleans (two home, one road).
The other major thing we look at when the schedule is released is the number of times you're asked to play on back-to-back nights. We spend a lot of time talking about the difficulty of these situations, even though the Blazers were 13-9 last season on the second night of back to backs. There were 22 back-to-back sets last season, and this schedule shows 18. So, that's a positive. The quality of opponents you face in back to backs is an entirely different factor, as is the travel between the two games. I'm not going quite that deep today.
After going through the process of breaking down the entire schedule, you always end up asking yourself the same basic question- is this a good schedule? Is it more favorable than schedules in recent years? Is it decidedly tougher? I'll take your input on that, of course. It's always so difficult to answer that question in the middle of the summer.
At first glance, this schedule seems a little tougher to me. I guess that's because it doesn't flow as smoothly as the schedules have in recent years. There are a ton of peaks and valleys, if you know what I mean. There are brutal stretches, followed by more favorable periods. The fact that there's a six-game trip, and a seven-game trip, makes this very different than schedules we've had in recent years. But, you just don't know at this point how you're going to be playing during given times of the year. Timing is that X factor, along with injuries (both to your team and opponents) makes everything so unknown.
I can't even imagine how difficult it is for the league's schedule makers to put together the season for all 30 teams. Everyone has complaints about their schedule, and I can't remember ever being thrilled with every part of it. That's just the way it is.
The biggest positive is that it's out, and you can now fill your day (or days) combing over every part of the schedule. Different 11-game ticket packages are on-sale now, Lakers Pack, Heat Pack, Playoff Pack and Weekend Pack (more info). There are better places to view the entire schedule, but I've listed it in quick-and-dirty fashion below.
Let me know what you think.
10 San Antonio
19 @San Antonio
29 New York
3 @Oklahoma City
13 @San Antonio
18 @New Jersey
25 @Golden State
6 Oklahoma City
10 @New Orleans
21 San Antonio
5 New Orleans
14 @New York
25 Golden State
27 Oklahoma City
29 New Orleans
4 New Jersey
6 @Oklahoma City
11 Golden State