The announcement of schedules is always greeted with a lot of fanfare, mostly due to timing— there is very little other NBA news in the middle of August. That said, the schedule is important, and matters a great deal for both a team’s record and for its visibility to fans. Especially crucial is the national television schedule, as those games draw the most eyeballs, and can be huge in generating buzz for a team.
I was prepared for the Clippers to lose a lot of nationally televised games. Even with Blake Griffin returning, I thought the loss of Chris Paul would put a severe dent in the Clippers’ “national recognition”, scaring away ESPN and TNT. However, that is not the case at all: The Clippers have 31 games on national television (counting NBATV), the seventh highest number in the NBA. They will have 12 games on NBATV, 10 games on ESPN, and 9 on TNT. That’s substantial, and while NBATV isn’t nearly as big a deal as the other stations, it’s nice to know the Clips have mass appeal. Unfortunately, they won’t be granted any ABC games (Paul’s Rockets have six), but cracking almost 20 between TNT and ESPN combined is quite good.
The NBA season is starting over a week earlier than last year in an effort to grant teams more rest during the season. This has resulted in eliminating all “four games in five days” situations, and lowering the number of back to backs. The Clippers only have 14 back to back games this season, down from 18 last season— though 14 is still far too high. Eight of those are in the first two months of the season, which should grant the Clippers a respite as the season winds down.
While the Clippers start off the season playing eight of their first nine games at home, their fortune immediately reverses with an identical stretch on the road. While the early home schedule does feature a showdown with Golden State, the rest of those first nine games aren’t incredibly challenging: The Clippers will face the Lakers, Mavericks, and Suns, amongst others. The next sequence is mixed, as it starts off with road games at San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Cleveland, all very tough games. However, the final three road contests are against the Knicks, Hawks, and Kings, all of whom should be in the lottery next season. The Clippers’ schedule in April is also easy, with five of their final six games at home. This should grant the Clippers an ability to make up ground down the stretch, which could be huge if they are jockeying for a playoff spot.
Other notable facts:
· The Clippers’ longest road trip is five games, from November 7th to the 15th.
· Their longest homestretch is six games, from February 28th to March 10th.
· They are going to travel 50,725 miles this season, sixth most in the NBA. As airplane flights have gotten more and more luxurious over time, this shouldn’t be a huge deal, but it can still be a factor as the season goes along.
· The Clippers will play every Western Conference team four times except for the Mavericks, Nuggets, Thunder, and Spurs. This is very good news. The Spurs and Thunder should be two of the best teams in the Conference, and the Nuggets will probably be dangerous as well. The less the Clippers play those teams, the better. Even better, two of the three games against the Nuggets are at home, meaning they play only one game at mile-high altitude.
· Reunions: The Clippers will play J.J. Redick and the Sixers for the first time on November 13th (at home), Jamal Crawford and the Wolves on December 3rd (away), and Chris Paul on December 22nd. That first game against the Rockets is on ESPN, and Chris Paul’s return to Staples Center will be on TNT (January 15th). Jamal’s first time back at Staples, on December 6th, will also be on ESPN.
· January is the Clippers’ toughest month (strength of schedule of 0.552), with two games against Golden State, and one against Houston, OKC, Utah, Minnesota, and Boston.
Preseason is now only a month and a half away. While the rest of August and most of September should be quiet, Clippers’ basketball will be here before you know it!