Still more than three months away until the NBA season actually begins, but with the schedule out, it feels a lot closer than that. Especially when you think about the Olympics taking up some of our attention, then training camp starts in late September, then preseason games, then the actual thing. It’s like Jerry explaining to Elaine how short their trip to his parents will be. “It will go by like that.”
I mean, really if you think about it, the season’s almost here. At least with a schedule, we can think about what it will be like, right?
If you want to go over the entire thing, it’s right here, but I’m going to hit on the big parts of it.
FIVE MUST-SEE HOME GAMES
1. Blazers, Nov. 2. It’s not the most intriguing home opener ever, but with the way things ended for the Thunder last season, what with the team failing to return to Oklahoma City after losing Game 2 at home against the Heat, it’ll sure be nice to see them again. Plus, I’m kind of stoked to watch Damien Lillard versus Russell Westbrook.
2. Lakers, Dec. 7. With the way the Lakers managed their offseason adding Steve Nash, most will have the Thunder and Lakers atop their Western Conference predictions. OKC has held a reasonable dominance over the Lakers lately, smoking them out of the playoffs in five games last season so despite this being an early December game, it’ll feel much bigger.
3. Heat, Feb 14. The Game 6 we never got. Though unfortunately, this one won’t carry the same level of importance that one would’ve. It is on Valentine’s Day however, so talk about a hot date. (That was bad. I apologize.)
4. Celtics, March 10. Jeff Green finally will make his return to Oklahoma City. It’s been a while since we thought about him or had the opportunity to complain about his rebounding or lack thereof, but he was a key part in kicking off this incredible journey. He helped build this to what it is and he’ll always have a place close to Thunder fans’ hearts.
5. Spurs, April 4. Will it carry the same weight as the final regular season meeting in OKC last year where the Spurs took the tiebreaker and essentially the top seed in the West? Not to mention there’s a little unfavorable blood between the two teams remaining after the Thunder took four straight out from under the Spurs’ noses in the Western finals.
FIVE FUN ROAD GAMES
1. Spurs, Nov. 1. Kicking the season off on the road against the team you won four straight against to eliminate? Sounds like fun!
2. Nets, Dec. 4. It’s always fun to see basketball in a brand new arena. And a new city. With the other team having new uniforms.
3. Heat, Dec. 25. The prime Christmas Day matchup falls to the Heat and Thunder which as you know, is a rematch of something.
4. Lakers, Jan. 11. The first return to the scene where KD ripped out the hearts of the Lakers. Any time OKC meets the Lakers it’s a marquee game and playing in Staples on a Friday night will have all the stars out and the spotlight on.
5. Knicks, March 7. Because of that stupid lockout last season, KD didn’t get to make a trip to Madison Square Garden. And it’s kind of become a big deal for stars to play there for some reason. It’s the big stage with special history and traditions oozing from the building.Just something special about it.
TOUGHEST 10-DAY STRETCH
Dec. 17 – Dec. 27: The Thunder play the Spurs (home), the Hawks (road), the Wolves (road), the Heat (road) and the Mavericks (home). The likeliest two easiest opponents — the Hawks and Wolves — come as a back-to-back. The good news is, three of those games are on national TV though.
The longest road trip for the Thunder is six games (Jan. 18-27) where they play the Mavs, Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors, Kings and Lakers. If you’re counting, that’s six games in nine days. Other than this road trip, the longest OKC will be away is three games and that happens three times.
Fifteen back-to-backs for the Thunder this season, which puts them on the lower end of things compared to the rest of the league. Only Orlando has less (13). Last season OKC had nineteen in the original 82-game schedule. The season starts on a back-to-back though, which is kind of weird.
January, for sure. The Thunder play 16 games, 11 of which are on the road. They have a six-game road trip and a three-game road trip. That makes for 11 of 13 games on the road. There isn’t necessarily a murderer’s row of opponents lined up, but the sheer amount of time spent away from home will be exhausting. Half of their opponents were playoff teams last season with a few of the ones that weren’t being significantly improved teams like the Nets and Warriors.
November. The Thunder get the benefit of having a softer start to the schedule. The Thunder play 17 games in the month, which is a lot, but 11 of them are at home. And the opponents aren’t all that overwhelming. Eight games are against playoff teams from last year, but that includes the Jazz and the Bulls, who will be missing Derrick Rose. There’s a very good chance the Thunder could begin the year 14-3 or something close to that.
WORKING FOR THE WEEKEND
The Thunder don’t play a single home game on Saturday this season. But they do play 17 combined on Friday and Sunday. The Thunder sure love those 6 o’clock Sunday games. Mainly because they can bill them as “family friendly” for some reason.
LOOK AT ME NOW
The Thunder make 25 national TV appearances this season (10 ESPN, 10 TNT and five on ABC). And that’s not counting the five on NBATV, which I don’t. (Why? Because NBATV is hardly “national TV.” First, not that many people get the channel and secondly, you get local announcers on the game. There’s a certain feel to a national TV game, which you most certainly don’t get on NBATV. Besides, the games are blacked out in OKC so you don’t get to see them anyway.)
Twenty-five is tied with the Heat for the most national TV appearances for any team, which is very cool. Small market, my butt. Last season in the original 82-game schedule the Thunder were set for 19 national TV games (eight on TNT, nine on ESPN and two on ABC). The year before that, OKC played 17 times on national TV.