The NBA just released the full 2021-22 schedules for each team, including for our Clippers. Although schedules can be overlooked by the average fan, there are numbers and benchmarks that we can explore to help us set reasonable expectations for each team going into the next season.
Looking at the Clippers’ schedule, what stands out the most is the grueling two-week long road trip in the middle of winter, the annual Grammy road trip while Staples Center prepares for the awards show. Opening in the notoriously high altitude of Denver on Jan. 19, the team will then head to the east coast and work their way down to Miami and Orlando before arriving in Indiana to close things off on Jan. 31.
However, there will be little respite for the Clippers once landing back in Los Angeles — their next matchup is a nationally-televised Thursday night battle against the Lakers. Those two weeks contribute a large chunk to the more than 48,000 miles the team will have to travel for their away games, amounting to the third-most in the league according to Positive Residual.
While that eight-game road trip is the only stretch with more than three away games in a row, the Clippers’ schedule is astoundingly difficult according to other benchmarks. Positive Residual’s statistical models give us easy-to-understand insight on the particularities of each team’s schedule, and their “Strength of Schedule” measurement names the Clipper schedule as being among the ten most difficult in the league. Although it is true that the team will enjoy 11 games with a rest advantage, they will also be entering 13 games with a rest disadvantage, which is more than 25 other teams.
This points to the Clippers having a schedule of extremes, occasionally enjoying long periods of rest but with plenty of short, difficult road trips and 14 sets of back-to-backs against challenging teams. To make matters worse, they have multiple early afternoon games scheduled, which the Clippers have tended to struggle in.
Just look at Justin Russo’s observation below, detailing the five seven-day stretches in which the Clippers play five games.
I actually need to amend this. The LA Clippers do NOT have four sets of 5 games in 7 nights.— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) August 20, 2021
They have five.
November 28 - December 4
December 26 - January 1
March 8-14 https://t.co/eMYj1PNfu9
He notes in another tweet that the five 5-in-7 stretches the Clippers are scheduled for amount to the same number as eight other playoff teams combined, further demonstrating the challenge that this year’s calendar will pose.
It will be interesting to see the Clippers’ resolve and poise as they make their way through the season-long battle of attrition. Without Kawhi Leonard suiting up for much, if not the entirety of the season, and with Serge Ibaka’s health still in question, even more pressure will be on Paul George to hold the team together like he did to survive the series against the Jazz these past playoffs. This schedule will also pose a test for the young Terance Mann, who will help fill in the hole left by Kawhi’s injury-related absence. Mann showed a level of confidence and effort in the playoffs that surprised many in the audience, but we will see if he can build off of that throughout the 2021-22 season.
In short, the Clippers have a tough year ahead of them, a difficult schedule compounded with various injuries, roster changes, and new additions will pose a significant challenge for even the most talented of teams. However, this challenge can be viewed as an opportunity for a team with a lot to prove. Under Paul George’s leadership, and with the new additions of three rookies and Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers are in a prime position to outperform expectations. And, upon Kawhi Leonard’s long-awaited return, the team will have yet another opportunity to make a run to through the Western Conference and to the Finals.