By David Locke, utahjazz.com
The Utah Jazz 2015-16 Schedule is out and here are my thoughts.
This is Crazy Different
There has been a pattern to Utah’s schedule that was only broken by the 2002 Olympics—a November road trip, December pre-Christmas trip, one more Eastern Conference trip in March. Not this year. Everything about this schedule is different.
The Jazz open on the East Coast. The Jazz’s first three games are on the road against Detroit, Philadelphia and Indiana. The home opener is November 4 against Portland and Damian Lillard. The last time the Jazz opened in November at home, in a non-lockout season, was 2007. This season’s home opener is the latest non-lockout season home opener since 1994 when the Jazz opened the season on November 4 at home against Miami. The last time the Jazz opened the season with three straight road games was 1991 when the Jazz played at Minnesota, Indiana and Atlanta before opening at home.
There is no Christmas road trip. The Frank Layden/Jerry Sloan signature pre-Christmas road trip is gone. Instead, the Jazz will be home from December 15–22 before a single road game at Golden State on December 23.
Ring in the New Year with the Jazz. The Jazz will play a New Year’s Eve game against Portland at home. Lots of teams have had great success with the New Year’s Eve game.
Multiple days off in the middle of road trips is something I have rarely seen in an NBA schedule. The NBA has made a huge effort to get rid of four games in five nights (the Jazz only have one). This means the Jazz will, on three occasions, have back-to-back days off while on the road. In January, the Jazz play at the Lakers on Sunday and next at Portland on Wednesday. In February, the Jazz play Saturday at Phoenix and next in Dallas on Tuesday. In March, the Jazz play at Milwaukee on Sunday and then in Houston on Wednesday.
I’m a big believer that the luck of the schedule can give a team confidence or rip away its confidence. Give a team five straight games against great teams and they could lose some belief. On the other hand, give a team a stretch of games against non-playoff teams and the team may believe it’s better than it actually is and play that way.
The Jazz avoid any truly murderous stretch until March. March, however, is brutal. The Jazz face six straight playoff teams and then five of their next six games are also against playoff teams. In total, the Jazz play 12 of their 16 games in March against teams that made the playoffs last season.
The Jazz have two four-game stretches that will be tests. In November, the Jazz host Oklahoma City and visit the Clippers, and then play New Orleans and Golden State in Salt Lake City. In December, the Jazz host OKC and then (after an off day) hit the road for a back-to-back set vs. OKC and San Antonio before returning home to host the Pelicans after another day off.
On the flip side, the Jazz also have some chances to gain momentum. They open the season playing five straight against teams not projected to make the playoffs, though four of those games are on the road.
Nine of the Jazz’s 15 games in December are against non-playoff teams.
Finishing January and going into February, the Jazz could really gain some confidence. They have a six-game homestand of Detroit, Charlotte, Minnesota, Chicago, Denver and Minnesota.
- The longest road trip is March 19–26 as the Jazz will play five games in eight nights against Chicago, Milwaukee, Houston, Oklahoma City and Minnesota.
- The longest homestand is January 25–February 5 against Detroit, Charlotte, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Denver and Minnesota.
- The Jazz play the Knicks in New York on the January 20 and then play Brooklyn two days later. Do we even switch hotels?
- Only once do the Jazz play four games in five nights (January 6-10) … and then they get two days off.
- 18 back-to-back games for the Jazz. Ten of those back-to-backs are road-to-road. Home-to-road is much harder than road-to-home. The Jazz have four of each.
- The really awful back-to-backs are when you fly East and lose time (e.g. Utah to Houston, Utah to Minnesota or L.A. to Utah). The Jazz only have two and neither is brutal.
- Wonder if the April 3 Sunday night game in Phoenix will be for a playoff spot? What about the final home game of the year against Dallas?
- Both road games against New Orleans are on the back end of a back-to-back. Those are important games in the playoff race. Maybe not being in New Orleans the night before a game is just fine, though.
- The Jazz play Phoenix and New Orleans four times each, but only play Dallas three times—twice in Dallas and in Utah for the only visit on the Jazz’s final home game of the year.
Two Games a Month is All I Ask ...
- Anthony Davis comes to town on Saturday November 28.
- Steph Curry and the defending champion Warriors play the next Monday, November 30.
- Kevin Durant returns on Friday, December 11.
- Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and (yes) DeAndre Jordan are in Utah the day after Christmas.
- How many more times to see Kobe? He comes to town Jan 16.
- Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns—the future is in town on Jan 29.
- The Beard and the Rockets are in town Feb 23.
- Nothing like seeing the Spurs in person. They arrive on Feb 25.
- See the NBA Finals in one month—LeBron and Cleveland’s visit to Utah is on March 14. Steph Curry and the Warriors return on March 30.
- Every game in April is great: Wolves, Spurs, Clippers and the finale with Dirk’s only visit this year.