This week, the NBA released the 2023-24 regular season schedule for all 30 teams, including for your Portland Trail Blazers. NBA schedules don’t really change all that much from year to year -- you play most teams in your conference four times other than the few you only play three times and then two games versus every team from the other conference -- so the release can feel a little anticlimactic. However, with the advent of the In-Season Tournament and a continued emphasis on reducing travel, Portland’s 2023-24 schedule has a few new wrinkles. So let’s go ahead and consider some of those changes along with the facets of the schedule that have mostly stayed the same…
First, the basics. The Trail Blazers begin their season with an October 25 tilt versus the Clippers in Los Angeles before hosting the Orlando Magic in their home opener on October 27. Then it’s off to the east coast for a three-game trip, after which they return to Portland to host consecutive games versus the Grizzlies -- the first being their opening group stage game of the In-Season Tournament. Roughly six months later, Portland’s regular season home schedule ends with a game versus the Rockets on April 12 before they close out their season on the road versus the Sacramento Kings on April 14.
GAMES BY MONTH
October: 4 (1 home, 3 away)
November: 14 (6 home, 8 away)
December: 13 (9 home, 4 away)
January: 17 (6 home, 11 away)
February: 9 (7 home, 2 away)
March: 17 (9 home, 8 away)
April: 8 (3 home, 5 away)
Seven games: 2
Six games: 0
Five games: 0 (though maybe one)
Four games: 2 (though maybe one)
Three games: 3
Two games: 2 (though maybe three)
One game: 5 (though maybe four)
As you can see, the Blazers have a road-heavy start to the season -- 11 of their first 18 games are away from Moda Center -- spend a lot of time in Rip City in the last month of 2023, spend most of the first month of 2024 on the road before things even out in the last two and a half months of the regular season. The details are up for debate, but at first glance, January looks to be the Trail Blazers’ most difficult month of the season, while December has to be the odds-on favorite for easiest month, as it has the fewest number of games for a full month, is incredibly home-heavy and of the two back-to-backs that month, both require no travel. That’s about as good as you’re going to get.
Now here is where Portland’s schedule looks a bit different than other years, for two different reasons.
First, it’s not possible to be certain at this point of the actual number of five, four and one game road trips due to the flexibility required by the In-Season Tournament. The way it works is the Trail Blazers will play the four other teams -- Grizzlies, Suns, Lakers and Jazz -- in the “West A” group, with the team with the best record moving on to the knockout rounds while the other four resume regular season play (one “wild card” team in each conference also advances, but let’s not worry about that right now).
So if the Trail Blazers did advance out of group play, they would play on either December 4 or 5, which is at the “end” of a four-game road trip, though where that game would be held will be defined after the participants in the knockout round are set. So it’s possible the Blazers will play that game on the road, which would technically make the four-game road trip with stops in Milwaukee, Indiana, Cleveland and Utah, a five-game trip. If they played that game at home, it would remain a four-game trip.
But we know that it will be no longer than a five-game trip, as one of the TBD games is at home and the other is on the road, so if nothing else, the Blazers will play again at Moda Center before heading out to face the Clippers in LA on December 11. And if the Blazers don’t make the knockout round, they play regular season games on December 6 and 8, one home, one road.
So to recap, they “maybe” have one five-game trip if their first In-Season Tournament game after group play concludes is on the road. If it’s at home, that remains a four-game trip. However, in that instance, they add another two-game trip to their schedule since their second In-Season Tournament game after group play would be a road game, as is their first game after the tournament, the December 11 game in LA versus the Clippers. And that could also end up being a one-game trip if the whole thing is flipped, hence there maybe being four one-game trips rather than five. However, the main takeaway is that regardless of if it’s a five, four or one game trip, it’s not a very important distinction.
But what is important is the increased length of Portland’s road trips going into the 2023-24 season.
After having none last season, the Trail Blazers have two seven-game road trips this season, the longest of which spans 14 days. Those trips are about as long as I can remember in my 15-plus years with the team, though it seems like the NBA took steps to lessen the impact of being out for so long.
The first seven-game trip, which starts in Phoenix on New Year’s Day and ends in Minneapolis on January 12, has a four-game run -- two in Dallas and one each against the New York teams -- in which the team will only get on a plane once. As for the seven-game, two-week trip at the end of March/beginning of April, there’s at least one day off in between every game.
By extending trips (not to mention increasing the number of consecutive games versus the same team, which we’ll look at in a moment) the NBA is able to reduce the number of miles the team logs. For instance, the Blazers almost always used to play the Knicks and Nets on separate trips, requiring two flights to the east coast. By playing those games together, you eliminate a cross-country flight, which is is way more detrimental than adding another game to a trip. Portland has two fewer one-game trips this season than last season, and those two seven-game trips are likely the reason why.
But on the slightly negative side, Portland’s longest homestand this season is just six games spread out over nine days.However, they do have a stretch in December in which they play just one road game -- a one off to Golden State -- over the course of 15 days and nine games. That’s almost a homestand.
BACK-TO-BACKS: 14 (7 home/home, 0 home/away, 5 away/away, 2 away/home)
11/3 - 11/5: vs. Memphis
12/28 - 12/29: vs. San Antonio
1/3 - 1/5: @ Dallas
2/2 - 2/4: @ Denver
2/13 - 2/15: vs. Minnesota
3/1 - 3/2: @ Memphis
3/20 - 3/22: vs. Clippers
The number of back-to-backs a team has is always one of the hot topics around the schedule release, and this year, the Blazers have the same number as they’ve had the last two seasons.
But what is different is that of those 14 back-to-backs, eight require no travel, almost three more than the league average, in between the games thanks to having one back-to-back versus the Grizzlies in Memphis and seven back-to-backs played entirely at Moda Center. Travel is only one facet of the difficulty of playing back-to-backs, but more rest in between those games is one way to limit the strain on players, not to mention coaches and staff. And again, it also serves to reduce travel, as only visiting Denver, Dallas and Memphis once cuts out three flights, two of which are a significant distance from Portland. For comparison, the Blazers had five no travel back-to-backs last season.
Portland has just one back-to-back this season that requires more than 750 miles of travel and three that result in a change of timezone (though I think they pick up an hour rather than lose an hour in all three instances).
MILES TRAVELLED: 46,000
By way of the tweaks described above, the NBA has gotten Portland’s estimated miles traveled down to 46,000, which is 2,000 miles less than last season and 5,000 miles less than the season before that. What’s more, Portland’s 46,000 miles traveled is just 2,000 miles more than the league average, a triumph considering how far Portland is from the next closest team.
And after years of traveling the most or the second-most miles of any team, the Blazers are traveling 5,000 miles less than the team logging the most miles this season. And though the NBA doesn’t make note of which team that is, it seems logical to assume there is at least one additional team, potentially two, traveling a longer collective distance than the Trail Blazers this season. Again, longer trips and playing consecutive games versus the same team has lead to a significant reduction in travel, those are easy tradeoffs.
WEST TEAMS PLAYED ONLY THREE TIMES: Kings, Lakers, Mavericks, Warriors, Spurs, Pelicans
Usually there are four teams in conference that you only play three times, but this year there are currently six. I say “currently” because it’s very possible that one or both of the TBD games after the knockout round of the In-Season Tournament will be against these teams. The only other option is playing at least one West team as many as five times, which seems like a likely scenario.
FRESH GAMES: 14
TIRED GAMES: 9
EVEN GAMES: 57
In the last few seasons, the NBA has broken down which games a team is “fresh,” meaning they did not play the day before while their opponent did, “tired,” the exact opposite of “fresh,” and “even,” meaning both teams either had the previous night off or played the night before. So Portland has five more “fresh” games this season than “tired” games. They also have four more “fresh” games this season than last season and one fewer “tired” games. That's an improvement, though one assumes Portland’s roster this season will have quite a few fresh legs regardless.
So now you can start your planning for next season. Season Ticket Holders can purchase single-game tickets starting Tuesday, August 22 with the public on-sale beginning August 25.