2014-15 Lakers Schedule Breakdown
The schedule has been delivered, folks! You can now officially plan the next seven months of your life, thanks to our breakdown of everything you really need to know (plus several things you absolutely don’t need to know) about the 2014-15 Lakers schedule. Enjoy!
Let’s consult Captain Obvious to kick things off: Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard weren’t the best of buds during the frustrating, injury-plagued 2012-13 season. Howard wanted to hold the conch, but you didn’t need to read “Lord of the Flies” to understand why that job was occupied by Bryant. Perhaps the greatest NBA teammate ever, Steve Nash, made no secret that Howard often declined to run screen/roll action, instead breaking off the offense to call for the ball on block. The locker room vibe at times seemed like Zack Morris and A.C. Slater going after Kelly Kapowski. Of course, Kobe played only six games last season, and thus has yet to take the court against the center Shaq loves to hate the most … though Bryant certainly enjoyed watching Steve Blake (now a Blazer) hit the dagger three to beat Howard and Houston on Nov. 7, 2013. Anyways: why not let Kobe and Dwight square off on opening night, Oct. 28, in Los Angeles!
Bonus No. 1: Jeremy Lin faces his former team, with the motivation of knowing Houston had to give up first and second round picks to L.A. just to move him in hopes of signing another player.
Bonus No. 2: James Harden was all too happy to replace Kobe on the All-NBA First Team at the shooting guard slot, where Bryant has held court for 11 seasons, including from 2006-13.
Rather than take my word for it, you're better off checking out the graphical breakdowns of the month-by-month and day-by-day (L.A. always plays on Fridays and Sundays and never Saturdays) breakdowns in this space. But I will point out that L.A.’s older players are likely to appreciate the decrease from 19 back-to-backs in 2013-14 to just 16 this season, even if the Lakers get hit with consecutive tricky ones to start the season. In fact, L.A. plays on four of the first five NBA nights, with home/road B2B’s against HOU/PHX (Oct. 28/29) and LAC/GSW (Oct. 31, Nov. 1), good teams all. However, there are only two B2B’s in November and January, and one apiece in February and April, providing an always-helpful day of recovery after the vast majority of games. Last season, L.A. had at least two B2B’s in every month, and as many as four in January and March.
Unrelated: I typically watch B2B episodes of my favorite TV shows (“Game of Thrones”, “Suits,” “Mad Men”, “Masters of Sex,” “The Americans”, “Sons of Anarchy,” any MTV Challenge) when returning from road trips to a full DVR.
PLAYOFF HOPES? BETTER BEAST THE EAST
We don’t need to run any analytics breakdowns or scour season-preview predictions to recognize that the Lakers aren’t title favorites like San Antonio, OKC, Cleveland or Chicago. In short, Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss & Co. built as competitive a team as possible while maintaining the type of flexibility through short-term and expiring contracts to add a max-level star either through trade or (eventually) free agency. Nobody picked the Lakers to go to the 2008 NBA Finals, but they overachieved early and pulled Pau Gasol seemingly out of nowhere to become suddenly terrific, albeit when Bryant was in his prime. Getting back to championship contention is the ultimate goal, but in the short term, for a chance at this season’s playoffs, L.A. must take care of business against the NBA’s weakest teams, many of which are in the East. When Philly, Milwaukee, Orlando, Boston, Detroit and even New York pop up on the schedule (many of those games come between December and February), the Lakers better capitalize, as there are so few Western teams unlikely to be at least in postseason contention. Their first chance to beast the East on a trip: Dec. 2 (@DET); Dec. 3 (@WAS); and Dec. 5 (@BOS).
WELCOMING THE NEW TROOPS
Out: Kent Bazemore, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar, Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman, Kendall Marshall and Jodie Meeks
In: Carlos Boozer, Jordan Clarkson, Ed Davis, Jeremy Lin, Julius Randle
L.A.’s most home-heavy month of 2014-15 comes in January, when the lads are in Los Angeles for 10 of the 15 games, a good time for you Californians (and visitors) to watch the players rocking purple and gold for the first time. Lin, Boozer and Randle will all battle for starting positions, and there’s no reason Davis can’t vie for serious playing time as well. Second-rounder Clarkson impressed at the NBA Summer League and will get a serious look at training camp, but it’s No. 7 overall pick Randle – L.A.’s highest selection since 1982 (Big Game James Worthy at No. 1) – who is eager to prove himself worthy of some seriously high long-term expectations. Coach Byron Scott told me on Tuesday that he thinks Randle will benefit from playing next to veteran Boozer, a super-loud on-court communicator, and can certainly envision him making a big impact despite his youth (Randle will turn 20 on Nov. 29). Jordan Hill may start at center, and Scott could either start Boozer at PF and bring Randle in early for Hill, or at some point start the rookie (Boozer moving to center in either case). That situation will be fluid, with open competition coming at camp.
BRYANT, BYRON AND BOSTON
When Kobe Bryant was an 18-year-old rookie in 1996, new Lakers head coach and Showtime shooting guard Byron Scott was a 35-year-old in his 14th and final season. The two grew close, with Scott affectionately referring to the precociously talented upstart as “Showboat,” due in part to his insatiable desire to take on any and all veteran comers in post-practice games of “Knock Out.” There, the players rotated through 1-on-1 possessions of offense and defense, the scoring player keeping the ball, Bryant always begging for more. Their bond was formed in part due to a similarly unflinching desire to win … especially against Boston. Don’t get me wrong: Kobe in particular hates all opposing teams. But he and Scott have both gone seven games against the Celtics in the Finals – both have managed to vanquish Jerry West and Elgin Baylor’s worst nightmare. The stakes may not be as high when L.A. draws Boston on Dec. 5 (away) and Feb. 22 (home), but the hate of Celtic green is yet another commonality for the two men charged with leading the Lakers.
A FREEZING, SNOWY CHRISTMAS IN CHICAGO
Since I got this job in 2008, Christmas at Staples Center has been an annual tradition, one that actually traces consecutively back to the 2006-07 season, allowing Kobe to be there in person to watch his two daughters open their presents. But this year, our traveling crew will instead venture to Chicago, where the icy wind circling off Lake Michigan makes even Santa Claus strongly consider a “Top Gun” fly-by (Negative, Ghost Rider. Pattern is full.) Pau Gasol was Kobe’s lead, freakishly tall elf in helping to deliver three consecutive trips to the Finals from 2008-10, but he’s now in Santa’s color as a Bull. With the Spaniard, a healthy Derrick Rose (fingers crossed) and talented rookies Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott joining All-NBA First team center Joakim Noah and L.A. native Taj Gibson, Chicago joins Cleveland as co-favorites in the East. Kobe’s intended present, even to close friend Gasol, will undoubtedly be a lump of basketball-sized coal.
THE GRAMMY TRIP: THE HEIST?
I typically use this space to honor the “Best Rap Album” Grammy winner as a way to look at L.A.’s “Grammy Trip,” aptly named since the Lakers must vacate Staples Center for more than week during the popular music award show. Now, I like Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, whose album “The Heist” won last year’s Grammy, and appreciate what they stand for (not many rappers go out of their way to criticize homophobia and defend basic human rights like Macklemore’s lyrics do in “Same Love”). But even Macklemore thought Kendrick Lamar’s superior album “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” should have won, tweeting that he “robbed” Lamar and that he wanted Kendrick to win. To become one with Macklemore’s generosity of spirit, we’re going to give the other 2014 hip hop nominees some love here to have some fun with the Grammy trip.
But first some actual news about the trek that will cover 7,234 miles in the air: the Grammy Trip is typically a six- or seven-game, 11- or 12-day marathon through the East Coast, but this season features only four games, even while lasting nine days since there’s not a single back-to-back. The trip may have been shortened in part due to L.A.’s being atypically away for Christmas, and back East later in March than usual (@TOR, BKN and PHI from March 27-30).
OK, in honor of former Laker Josh Powell and our “J-Peezy’s Playlist” podcast, it’s hip hop time:
Jay-Z: “Magna Carta…Holy Grail” – The Lakers kick off the trip with a Feb. 1 tilt at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks, and since the next game isn’t until Feb. 4 and L.A. typically stay as many days in New York City as possible, they’ll have plenty of time to go check out Jay-Z’s native Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. MCHG is Shawn Carter’s 12th studio album, and it’s certainly not his best (he ranked it 6th in Rolling Stone,) but has some good singles like “Holy Grail” and “Tom Ford.” Quick story: I remember being in various elevators of team hotels with Kobe during the 2008-09 season, when he (often loudly) rapped verbatim Jay-Z lyrics for all to hear. Lamar Odom told me Bryant – who is tight with Jay-Z, naturally – was on an exclusive H.O.V.A. kick that whole season. And oh, by the way, Bryant dropped 61 in the Garden that year. Anyways … gotta figure he’ll have a lil’ magic for New York after missing that trip last season, right?
Kanye West: “Yeezus” – Milwaukee is only 90 miles north* of Chicago, so perhaps Kanye will make the trek up from his hometown to watch fellow Windy City native Jabari Parker face off with Julius Randle on Feb. 4? Kanye could also hang with Swaggy P, who managed to grab an extremely rare and expensive pair of his “Red October” kicks. I know Swaggy P would agree with my two favorite tracks off “Yeezus,” “Hold My Liquor” or “Bound 2,” incidentally.
*Related: Kanye and wife Kim Kardashian did name their daughter “North”.
Kendrick Lamar: “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” – After this album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart and sold 242,000 copies in its first week, Compton, C.A. native K.Dot no doubt felt like going to Disney World in Orlando, perhaps with his cousin Swaggy P (Nick Young confirmed to me that they’re actually cousins). Swaggy P’s girlfriend Iggy Azalea won’t be found on Lamar’s album … but his debut album is full of terrific records like “The Recipe,” “Swimming Pools (Drank)” “Backseat Freestyle” and “(expletive deleted) Don’t Kill My Vibe.” I’d be quite pleased if the Magic play some Kendrick tracks at the Feb. 6 game to make us L.A. residents feel at home at least during pregame warm ups, but Phil Jackson did once call Orlando “a plastic city,” so they may stay more mainstream. *Crosses fingers for a good DJ in the arena*
Drake: “Nothing Was the Same” – It’s low-hanging fruit to say that the focus of our 2013-14 Schedule Breakdown Grammy spot thanks to his terrific “Take Care” album would turn into a Cleveland Cavs fan due to LeBron’s return and the potential front-running that could occur. That said, Drake’s been pretty loyal to his native Toronto Raptors despite well-publicized trips to the Heat locker room and performances at post-title parties in Miami. “Nothing Was the Same” didn’t live up to “Take Care” despite some successful tracks like “Started from the Bottom” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” but there’s no doubt the Cavs will play the latter track in honor of LeBron when Kobe comes to town on Feb. 8 on the final leg of the trip. Just remember: Kobe never had to come back to L.A., because he never left.
Dear Mr. Silver,
I’d like to offer my sincere gratitude your way for extending the All-Star break from the typical four-day break to a full Thursday-to-Thursday week from Feb. 12-19. I’m super flattered that you thought specifically of my desire to take my due-around-the-season-opener identical twin boys to my and my wife’s home state of Minnesota to meet their extended family. I’ll make sure to text you a few selfies of the fam. And worry not about content on Lakers.com, Mr. Commissioner. Our all-around performers Ty Nowell and Zac Murray will likely head to New York to cover the game and surrounding activities alongside annual guest Kobe Bryant, rookie-game lock Julius Randle and perhaps even Jeremy Lin (lots of Lin/Lakers fans in Asia are no doubt ready to vote). If there’s anything I can do for you in return, tweet me @LakersReporter.
FISH AND PHIL IN BLUE AND ORANGE
It’s going to be a bit strange to see Derek Fisher, such a key member of five Lakers championship squads, patrolling the Staples sideline on March 12 for Knicks President … Phil Jackson. Fisher came into the league 11 picks after Bryant in 1996, and it was Phil’s uniquely brilliant coaching that helped them achieve their championship dreams. Phil will mostly likely watch the game from a suite, but I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how Fisher plans to defend his former backcourt partner. The thing is, Fish knows better than anybody that Bryant has a built-in counter to basically every D in the history of hoops … but that won’t stop him from trying to frustrate his greatest friend in the game.
SAY GOODBYE TO STEVE
Is this it for Steve Nash, one of the greatest point guards in the history of the game? Will we see the last no-look bullet pass? The final beautifully/perfectly released jump shot swish through the net from one of the league’s best ever shooters? It’s extremely likely that this will be the last NBA season for the league’s oldest player, who will turn 41 on Feb. 7, and I for one hope to watch him play as much as is absolutely possible. How much fun was the game at Philly last year on Nash’s 40th b-day, when he flashed some of the brilliance from previous seasons despite constant nerve pain? Well, the potential and absolutely uncertain good news on this front: Nash told trainer Gary Vitti that he feels 100 percent healthy for the first time in two years, that the nerve pain stemming from his broken leg two games into his Lakers tenure has subsided. That’s a guarantee of nothing, but I’m holding onto hope that Nash has one last run of uber-efficient offensive brilliance and superior team-building in his bones. Let’s appreciate the 2X MVP, 8X All-Star, 7X All-NBA member, 4X King of the 40-50-90 Club and occupier of the No. 3 slot on the all-time assist chart one last time.
GUEST FOOD CRITIC: JOHN BLACK
There are very few people* whom I (and pretty much every media member who covers the Lakers) communicate with more throughout the season than John Black. He’s the team’s V.P. of Public Relations, and thus the connector between L.A.’s players/coaches/management and the public through us in the media. There’s rarely a day that goes by in an NBA season that doesn’t include a text, call or e-mail from me to John. It’s even rarer that one of those forms of correspondence doesn’t include his advice – solicited or not – about food or music. So if you’re a road warrior, you might enjoy John’s list of favorite spots to eat around the league:
*Voices of the Lakers Bill Macdonald and John Ireland, who happened to go to the same high school in Newport Beach (Corona del Mar), very graciously vie for the top Lakers spot on my phone as I continue to pepper them with broadcasting and life questions.
Atlanta – Rathbun’s
Boston – Toscano (also Pizzeria Regina…best pizza in America)
Chicago – Gibsons
Cleveland – Blue Point Grill
Dallas – Javier’s
Indianapolis – St. Elmo’s
Minneapolis – Tie between Murray’s and J.D. Hoyt’s
New Orleans – Nola
Philadelphia – Davio’s
Portland – Higgins
Toronto – Sotto Sotto
Washington – Café Milano
FIVE FUN GAMES
- 1) Oct. 28 vs. Houston
- 2) Nov. 14 vs. San Antonio
- 3) Dec. 25 at Chicago
- 4) Feb. 8 at Cleveland
- 5) March 12 vs. New York