Tuesday afternoon, the league released its full team and television schedule, "in the event that the NBA is able to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the NBPA in a timely fashion," according to the official statement. How's that for optimism! At the very least, I'm pleased to report the Lakers 2011-12 slate does in fact include all 82 games. For now.
Here are a few quick highlights:
1. The Lakers open the season Nov. 1 at home against Oklahoma City, then turn around about three weeks later and play the Thunder at Ford Center. From there, L.A. won't see Kevin Durant and Co. until March 29, and again on April 8. There will likely be a lot read into the results of the first two games, but the second pair could very well have monumental impact on the Western Conference playoff picture.
As for Christmas Day, the Lakers are still on the schedule, but no longer have the marquee game. Instead, they'll follow the Finals rematch of Dallas vs. Miami with a tilt against the Bulls later that afternoon.
2. Where last season the Lakers didn't exactly face the stiffest of competition starting the year, this season, nobody will accuse them of getting fat on a bunch of cupcakes. 13 of their first 23 games are against playoff opponents, including the pair against OKC, home games against New Orleans, Denver, San Antonio, New York, Portland, and Orlando, plus tests in Memphis, Miami, Dallas, Charlotte (where they always lose) and Atlanta. They'll also see decent lottery squads in Houston and Phoenix.
3. April is going to be burly. The Lakers finish with a potentially strong Clippers squad, a game April 6 vs. Houston, and then nothing but playoff teams from a year ago. At OKC, New Orleans, and San Antonio, home vs. Denver, Dallas, and the Spurs, then on the road against the Nuggets. Yikes.
4. Toughest back-to-backs:
December 8 at Miami, December 9 at Charlotte
December 27 vs. Clippers, December 28 vs. Phoenix
January 16 vs. Dallas, Jan. 17 at Utah
February 9 at Boston, February 10 at New York
March 20 at Houston, March 21 at Dallas
April 17 vs. San Antonio, April 18 at Denver (this after game April 15 vs. Dallas)
Overall, though, the b2b's aren't too bad. 17 by my count, which is a very tolerable number, and in comparison to last year, at least, would place them at the low end league wide.
5. One critical early season stretch could come at the beginning of January, when after finishing a December stretch in which they play 11 of 16 on the road, the Lakers come home for a season long seven-game homestand, including visits from Philly, Houston, Memphis, and Dallas.