A Night Off in Minnesota?
by Mark Boyle
July 27, 2012
I always look forward to the date each summer when the NBA releases the schedule for the coming season. I consider it the unofficial end to one season and the beginning of another, and although I truly enjoy the discretionary time this job gives me during the summer, I’d just as soon be working.
I mention this to establish context, because while I look forward to the schedule’s release as much as anyone, I spend absolutely no time analyzing it. Well, to be totally honest, that’s not entirely true. When I get my hands on a copy for the first time each summer, I look for three things:
- Do I get a night off in Minnesota (or, as I prefer to call it, "God’s Country")?
- Do we have any nights off in warm weather cities in the middle of the winter?
- Do I have to walk to any of the games?
Beyond that, I don’t bother to get too deep into it. What for? We all play the same number of games and we all have back-to-back games and stretches of four games in five nights. Analyzing specific matchups is premature, because a game against Miami in January that looks appealing in October becomes less so if LeBron James breaks a wrist in November or Chris Bosh gets traded in December.
My favorite story concerning evaluating the schedule when it comes out goes back a few years. Typically, The Association sends an advance copy to all teams before releasing the schedule officially, which gives everyone a chance to request a tweak here or there. Sometimes these requests are granted, sometimes not. This whole process almost always includes the coach gnashing his teeth, wailing at the unfairness of too many back-to-backs, or lamenting the perceived bias against small market teams that, at least in the eyes of the coach, results in the Pacers playing an annual schedule that approximates the Bataan Death March in terms of difficulty.
I say almost always, because in my time here we’ve had one coach who didn’t look at it that way. When the advance schedule came out, our Media Relations Guru David Benner brought Larry Bird a copy. Upon receiving that copy, Larry would spend a microsecond or two looking at it and say, "41 at home? 41 on the road? Looks all right to me."
Exactly. The specifics of the schedule are almost irrelevant. Good teams will win the majority of their games whether they’re played at home, on the road, or in a cave on an otherwise deserted island. Bad teams will lose the majority of their games, and mediocre teams will muck around and try to win enough games to make the playoffs. For the Pacers, the release of the schedule marks the start of anticipating a new season. A season that should be the best the franchise has enjoyed in a number of years, and a season where it’s realistic to expect them to be mentioned when the conversation turns to teams that will be worth keeping an eye on. I’m excited.
And not just because I won’t have to walk to any games.