2018-19 NBA regular-season schedule takeaways: Lots of LeBron and Celtics vs. Sixers to watch this season
Here's 18 thoughts after the entire 2018-19 NBA schedule was released Friday
The full 2018-19 NBA schedule is out, so we can all start planning our lives around regular-season games. Here are 18 takeaways after the entire schedule was released Friday:
1. The schedule is more player-friendly, which is good news for everybody. According to Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania, teams will have an average of 13.3 back-to-backs, down from 14.4 last season, and nobody will have to play eight games in 12 nights anymore. Once again, there isn't a single instance of a team playing four games in five nights. Also, there are only 300 "rest advantage" games, in which one team is on the second game of a back-to-back and the other isn't, down from 327 last season, per NBA.com's John Schuhmann.
2. The Trail Blazers will travel more miles than any team in the NBA, but 1,000 fewer than they did last season, per Casey Holdahl of the team's official website. They only have 12 back-to-backs, however. (No team has fewer than 12, and no team has more than 15.)
3. Only three teams have 15 back-to-backs: the Wizards, Hornets and Knicks.
4. LeBron James' Lakers are going to be on TV a ton, which should surprise absolutely nobody. They open the season on Oct. 18 in Portland (TNT) and play their first home game on Oct. 20 against Houston (ESPN). All in all they have 14 ESPN games, 13 TNT games and five ABC games, and they will be a part of the league's Christmas Day and Martin Luther King Day specials. Last season, James' Cavaliers had 10 ESPN games, 12 TNT games and five ABC games.
5. Lakers vs. Warriors is the league's new marquee matchup. Their first game, in Oakland, will be on ABC and ESPN on Christmas. They will also meet on Jan. 21 in Los Angeles (TNT), Feb. 2 in Oakland (ABC) and April 4 in Los Angeles (TNT).
6. LeBron will return to Cleveland on Nov. 21 on ESPN. He will surely get a warm reception. Other love-ins: DeMar DeRozan's return to Toronto with the Spurs (Feb. 22, ESPN), Tony Parker's return to San Antonio with the Hornets (Jan. 14, NBA TV).
7. Kawhi Leonard will all but certainly be booed in his first game in San Antonio as member of the Raptors (Jan. 3, TNT). I'm also interested in how Paul George is treated when the Thunder visit the new-look Lakers (Jan. 2, ESPN).
8. The Jazz are getting some respect. While they are still not a mainstay on national TV, they have seven ESPN games, including an opening-week game against the Warriors (Oct. 19) and Christmas against the Blazers, plus three TNT games.
9. The Celtics-76ers rivalry is real, and the league and its broadcast partners know it. Not only do they play on Christmas on ABC, they face each other on opening night (TNT) and their other two meetings are on national TV (Feb. 12, TNT; March 20, ESPN). In addition to Christmas, Boston has four other ABC games, 10 ESPN games and 12 TNT games, while Philadelphia has five other ABC games, 10 ESPN games and 11 TNT games.
10. My pick for the two top teams in the East, the Celtics and Raptors, will meet for the first time pretty quickly: Oct. 19 on ESPN. Their other meetings will all be on national TV (Nov. 16, ESPN; Jan. 16, ESPN; Feb. 26, TNT).
11. The first Western Conference finals rematch between the Warriors and Rockets will take place on Nov. 15 (TNT). Their other three games: Jan. 3 (TNT), Feb. 23 (ABC), March 13 (ESPN).
12. How the Wizards have fallen. They have five ESPN games and three TNT games. Last year, they had a combined 18 games on ABC, ESPN and TNT.
13. Luka Doncic and Trae Young will be forever linked because of the draft-night trade between the Mavericks and Hawks. We don't have to wait that long for their first head-to-head matchup (Oct. 24, ESPN).
14. One more notable rookie clash: Doncic will begin his career in Phoenix against No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton (Oct. 17, ESPN).
15. If the Mavericks do not drastically overachieve and make the playoffs, Dirk Nowitzki's last NBA game looks like it will be on April 10 in San Antonio. If the Spurs underperform and miss the playoffs, it could be Manu Ginobili's last game as well.
16. If you think the Rockets and Thunder are going to be competing jockeying for playoff positioning, then their game in Oklahoma City on TNT on April 9 could be quite interesting. It will be the Rockets' season finale, but the Thunder will have one more game the next night in Milwaukee.
17. Remember the play-in game between the Timberwolves and Nuggets four months ago? That was so exciting that the league has schedule those two teams to play against each other on the last night of the regular season in Denver (April 10, ESPN.)
18. Every team has at least one game on ESPN or TNT. Here are the teams that have only one: Atlanta (Oct. 24 vs. Dallas, ESPN), Brooklyn (Feb. 13 at Cleveland, ESPN), Charlotte (April 10 vs. Orlando, ESPN), Memphis (Jan. 21 vs. New Orleans, TNT), Orlando (April 10 at Charlotte, ESPN), Sacramento (Nov. 29 vs. Clippers, TNT). The Magic-Hornets game on the final night of the regular season seems like a good candidate to be flexed.
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