In our complete breakdown of the 2013-14 Lakers schedule, there plenty of things you need to know ... and plenty of things you don't really need to know, but might entertain you. View Full Schedule | View Schedule Video Breakdown
CHINA: Before we explore the new schedule, let's make special mention of what we've known about for a while: two preseason games against Golden State set for Oct. 15 in Beijing and Oct. 18 in Shanghai. LAL head physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto has been to China several times with Kobe Bryant and relayed to us that there is almost literally nobody more beloved than the Black Mamba. (Think the Beatles coming to America in 1964. No, really.) I'm personally excited to dare Lakers radio voice John Ireland to eat a scorpion (Ireland never turns down a dare!); the cultural experience promises to be uniquely memorable.
PINEAPPLE SCHEDULE: It's a pain in the rear to cut a pineapple. If you're like me, you usually just buy the pre-cut version at the grocery store, even though it's far less cost efficient, so you can start eating the fruit right away. But if you do go through all the labor of cutting it yourself, you're rewarded with a lot of sweet eating ... at least until the last few pieces, which are stale by the time you get to them a few days later. This is a spot-on metaphor for L.A.'s 2013-14 schedule, if I don't say so myself. It starts and ends in rough ways, but that means it's quite juicy in the middle.
|2 games vs.||2 games vs.||2 games vs.||4 games vs.||4 games vs.|
The difficult start to the schedule isn't ideal for the Lakers, who aren't sure when Bryant will return from his Achilles injury, but having a challenging final several games is preferable in one way: Some of the best teams have at that point already locked up a playoff spot or seed and thus have less to play for in April than in a January or February meeting. Disclaimer: playing the teams who figure to be weaker is anything but a guaranteed victory.
TWC SportsNet - Fire up Your TV: For the second straight season, you'll be able to watch every single locally broadcast Lakers game on Time Warner Cable SportsNet. Bill Macdonald returns with your play-by-play call, Stu Lantz will dominate as always as the color analyst, and yours truly will be working the sideline, with games serving as the can't-miss main course in a diverse spread of Lakers content. From the perspective of the guy who will be interviewing players constantly, this LAL roster is fantastic. Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash are among the smartest and most interesting interviews in the NBA, while there isn't a single guy in the locker room who isn't pleasant conversation. And of course: you don't want to miss the postgame coverage, if only to see what first-year Laker and L.A. native Nick "Swaggy P" Young is wearing. The final season of "Breaking Bad" is the only program I'd rate as comparably tough from which to cut away. (Runners-up: "Game of Thrones," "Mad Men," "The Americans," "Sons of Anarchy," "The Duel II" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm.")
THE ODDBALLS: I'm not talking about new Lakers import Chris Kaman and how he once spent a week at a deer hunting camp and how he expertly uses a bow ... or Robert Horry's awful green suit on the TWC SportsNet pregame and postgame shows*. Nope, these "oddballs" are the exceptions in the schedule: Every season, each team plays four opponents in its conference only three times, but it can never be a squad within the division. In 2013-14, Dallas and Denver head to Staples to face the Lakers only once, while the Lakers take the purple-and-gold show to Portland and New Orleans just one time. The positive therein: You can concentrate all of your #AmnestyThat signs to flash at Mark Cuban at one time: on April 4. The negative: Having only one chance to purchase dozens of beignets in N'awlins is a serious blow to several of us in the traveling party.
*I owed Horry an insult after he hit me with a "you must shop in the children's section" bomb on live TV in reference to my 5-foot-9 height or supposedly boyish looks.
Games By Days
Games By Month
THE COLLEGE QUARTER SYSTEM: At my alma mater, Northwestern University, we operated on a quarter system that was essentially like trimesters plus the summer, meaning three intensive 10-week periods of classes culminating in three separate rounds of finals. The payoff was extended breaks between quarters, a.k.a. extra time at home for X-mas/New Year's, spring break and then summer. Why do you care about this, you're asking (perhaps impatiently)? Well, that's basically how this year's LAL schedule will operate. The games are all smashed together in bunches, with two atypically long periods of hiatus to go with the All-Star break.
Hiatus 1: Dec. 2-5 (games Dec. 1 and 6).
Hiatus 2: All-Star break Feb. 14-20 (games Feb. 13 and 19).
Hiatus 3: March 15-18 (games March 14 and 19).
Four days without a game is truly a long time for a veteran like Kobe or Nash to recover. Those periods of extended rest might just make up for the loaded clusters of games leading into them.
A HEAT WAVE FOR CHRISTMAS: Even without the same widespread championship expectations that have led into the last several seasons for the Lakers, the NBA is showing how relevant the Lakers remain by giving them the prime matchup on Christmas Day. Into Staples Center will march LeBron James and his twice-defending champion Miami Heat. No matter what the Vegas odds tell us about it being unlikely for the Lakers to win the league title, the high-profile X-Mas date shows how the franchise remains so critical to the NBA conversation.
ALL-STAR ROSTER?: The last time the Lakers failed to have at least two All-Stars was in 2008, when Bryant held a guard spot but Gasol was a victim of switching teams midseason. Since then, it's been Bryant and Gasol (2009-11), Bryant and Andrew Bynum in 2012 and Bryant and Dwight Howard in 2013. Kobe is a mortal lock to be voted in even if he misses considerable time, while Gasol has a chance to return as the featured big in an offense for the first time since 2010 (and even then he split touches with Bynum). As the four in Mike D'Antoni's offense, Gasol attempted just 3.4 shots at the rim, down from 5.8 in 2010, and his production/numbers obviously suffered. Meanwhile, Gasol was hindered by knee tendinosis that required offseason surgery, and a tear of his plantar fascia in February. Not fun things. But upon return from injury, he flashed All-Star form in April: 17.5 points on 51.3% shooting with 12.1 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.3 blocks per game as the Lakers went 7-1, even with Howard stealing touches. There's little doubt that Gasol will put up All-Star numbers as a featured player; the question is if L.A. can start the season well enough to warrant two All-Star spots in a loaded Western Conference.
ON THE BASKETBALL COURT: If you ask coach Mike D'Antoni or GM Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers will be better than expectation dictates, perhaps for the first time since 2007-08. They got younger and more athletic with the acquisitions of Jordan Farmar, Nick Young and Wesley Johnson, and did it on a bunch of small contracts that don't impact the team's nearly-clean salary sheet for 2014-15. Of course, those additions - plus Chris Kaman - don't make up for the talent of Howard especially on defense, where L.A. looks far less imposing on paper. Jordan Hill replaces some of Howard's rebounding and energy, but Gasol-Hill is a major step down from Howard-Gasol. The Lakers will also miss Metta World Peace on D (even if his lateral quickness had slowed), while Nash isn't getting any younger in terms of contending with quick opposing point guards and Bryant's defense has waned almost by the year. This is all part of the reason why D'Antoni hired Kurt Rambis, intent upon installing a scheme that leads to better team defense/communication to try and compensate. No such problems should exist on offense, however. Nash could make the biggest improvement from a 2012-13 season in which he was never healthy, particularly with D'Antoni's system put in during camp, the keys to the car as Bryant comes back and some capable shooting - Blake, Meeks Farmar, Johnson and rookie Ryan Kelly - to capitalize on his screen/roll actions with Gasol, Hill and Kaman. His rhythm with the Spaniard should be particularly appetizing, and we'll see plenty of points on the scoreboard. Nash won't have a problem with big men refusing to run screen/roll; the predicted improved chemistry on the team alone promises to make a positive difference.
THE GRAMMY TRIP - TAKE CARE: Each year, the Lakers get kicked out of the house while their Staples Center/AEG parents throw a major, musical party more commonly known as the "Grammy Awards." As the most loyal of our followers might recall, every year in this space we pay tribute to album of the year from the genre of choice in the locker room, hip-hop, and last year it was Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy". This year, Drake's "Take Care" took the cake, so we used his track titles to highlight stops along the Lakers' seven-game trip (PHX, BOS, TOR, CHI, MIA, ORL, NYK):
"Practice" (Track 17) - For the second consecutive season, Phoenix is the site for L.A.'s first Grammy game. But the Lakers will have to treat this year's version less like practice to avoid an unexpected loss for the second straight season. Also: Wes Johnson returns!
"We'll Be Fine" (Track 9) - Few people hate Boston more than Lakers fans, but in this first trip to Beantown subsequent to the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, L.A. fans can pay their respects to some of the league's most hardened fans, who will surely "Be Fine" thanks to their resiliency. Of course, once the ball is tipped, it's back to Lakers vs. Celtics venom in new Boston coach Brad Stevens' first game against Los Angeles (minus Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett).
"Crew Love" (Track 4) - This Grammy trip includes two of everybody's favorite stops - Chicago and New York - but Drake's favorite stop comes in the third game, his native Toronto. Like Drake, the Lakers always get some extra love from the Canadians, who treat Kobe like Wayne Gretzky (well … almost). Also, fellow Toronto native The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) is on the track, a favorite of TWC SportsNet crew member/videographer Paul Nankivell.
"Make Me Proud" ft. Nicki Minaj (Track 10) - This song makes some sense for the trip to Miami, since the Heat dancers seem to mimic Minaj style-wise and all. Drake performed some of his tracks at the Miami Heat Game 7 after-party at Story nightclub, where the Heat proudly (and rightfully) toasted their second consecutive title.
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|Oct. 29/30:||LAC/@GSW||Jan. 23/24:||@MIA/@ORL|
|Nov. 7/8:||@HOU/@NOP||Feb. 4/5:||@MIN/@CLE|
|Nov. 12/13:||NOP/@DEN||Feb. 25/26:||@IND/@MEM|
|Nov. 26/27:||@WAS/@BKN||Mar. 3/4:||@POR/NOP|
|Dec. 13/14:||@OKC/@CHA||Mar. 6/7:||LAC/@DEN|
|Dec. 16/17:||@ATL/@MEM||Mar. 13/14:||@OKC/@SAS|
|Dec. 20/21:||MIN/@GSW||Mar. 27/28:||@MIL/@MIN|
|Jan. 7/8:||@DAL/@HOU||Apr. 1/2:||POR/@SAC|
|Jan. 14/15:||CLE/@PHX||Apr. 13/14:||MEM/@UTA|
THE BALANCE BEAM: What surprised me the most at first glance of the schedule was the overall balance between home and road games. Typically, the Lakers start and finish the season with an abundance of home games, and get many roadies out of the way with longer trips in the middle months. That type of scheduling makes some sense for teams on either U.S. coast, to be most efficient with airplane flights. But this season, the Lakers' Delta charter flights are going to be nearly as balanced as Steve Nash's feet on his jump shot. In fact, by Jan. 1, L.A. will have played 16 home games and 16 road games, with one of each in October and alternating 8H/7R setups in November and December. The least balanced month is January, thanks to the Grammy Trip (5H, 10A), which evens out with five more home games than road in the final three months.
ROCKET-CHARGED RETURN: If it doesn't get out-hyped by Johnson's return to Phoenix, Kaman's to Dallas or Young's to Philadelphia - just kidding! - Dwight Howard's first appearance at Staples Center to face the Lakers on Feb. 19 shapes up to be a pretty big deal. No matter where the respective teams rank in the standings, this will be one charged atmosphere. See you there, folks!
FIVE FUN GAMES:
- Oct. 29 vs. L.A. Clippers
- Dec. 25 vs. Miami
- Jan. 26 at New York
- Feb. 19 vs. Houston
- March 13 at Oklahoma City