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Five Questions About the NBA’s Schedule Release

The calendar came out Monday, and we’re digging into the points of interest

James Harden Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA disclosed the full 2017–18 regular-season schedule on Monday. The release was a much-anticipated follow-up to Thursday’s Christmas Day and opening week teaser, which announced key matchups like the Battle of the Backcourts (October 17, Rockets vs. Warriors). But following a summer when rosters were unrooted or revamped, the entire schedule is full of intrigue, with story lines, revenge games, and LeBron’s return “back home” to Los Angeles all worth circling on your calendar. The release brought answers (DeMarcus Cousins will play in Sacramento again on October 26) but it also means more questions. We’re here to dig into them.

Will the Lakers have more nationally televised games than wins?

The second figure depends on your optimism about Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram. The first number is 35 (including games on NBA TV), which means the Lakers will be nationally televised nearly as often as the Golden State Warriors. (Who, you know, won last year’s championship.) (And are bringing back nearly the exact same squad.) (And start Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.)

Why do the basketball gods hate the Hawks?

Atlanta will travel to Dallas, Charlotte, Brooklyn, Miami, and Chicago before playing a single home game. The Hawks struggled to make playing in Philips Arena an advantage last season, finishing only three games better at home than on the road, so it’s not the worst thing for Atlanta. But the Hawks’ depleted roster likely won’t have the experience to capitalize on home games this year, either — of the 16 guys on the squad, only one Hawks player touts a career average of 24 minutes per game or higher. (Are you there, God? It’s me, Ersan Ilyasova.)

When are those revenge games we were talking about?

The Ventis: Chris Paul will play against the Clippers in Los Angeles on January 15, Gordon Hayward will return to Utah on March 28, and Jimmy Butler will go back to Chicago on February 9.

The Grandes: D’Angelo Russell will be in Los Angeles to play the Lakers (and make eye contact with Magic Johnson) on November 3, and Paul George will go back to Indiana on December 13.

The Talls: The Thunder will play the Lakers, who are not-so-secretly courting George already, on January 3; Joel Embiid will play Lonzo Ball, the son of someone he was fined for telling to fuck off, on November 15.

Why are the Rockets opening the season on an away back-to-back?

Not a week after the NBA passed out a leaguewide scheduling memo promising improvements to lower travel stress and increase player recovery time, Houston was hit with the news that it will open the season with a back-to-back on the road. The Rockets will be in Oakland on October 17, and in Sacramento on October 18. Last season, no team kicked off its year with two road games in two days — a noteworthy regression for a league emphasizing travel consideration. Only the Kings started 2016–17 with a back-to-back, the latter game at home, and the Spurs began their year making the same California trip the Rockets are scheduled to, but with a day off in between.

Maybe the NBA feels comfortable with this particular travel setup, Sacramento being so close to Oakland that 23-year-old Clint Capela won’t even be able to finish The Lego Movie on the 90-minute drive. The back-to-back also comes after a summer off (the ultimate rest period). Thanks to both reasons, and James Harden’s anti-rest stance, the NBA won’t have to worry about Houston taking a night off. Talk about a scheduling selling point in the eyes of the league.

Why would Adam Silver do that to Ricky Rubio?

Here is Rubio, trying to move on from his trade by exercising self-care, self-love, and sensational facial hair — 

—but here is the league, trying to keep him down. Rubio, after faithfully serving the Wolves for six seasons, will start his new beginning with Utah by playing his first away game in … Minnesota. He’ll match up against (read: lose to) a much-improved Wolves team in a newly renovated Target Center. You’re still winning the breakup, bud.