The NBA made a point to consider player health and rest when making the full 2017-18 schedule, which was released on Monday. By moving the start date of the season up to mid-October, the league reduced the number of back-to-backs, but there are still rough stretches of competition along the way (and in the West). Which periods should teams be wary enough of to double-stock the PB&J?
The Stretch When We Second-Guess the Warriors (And Our Good Sense)
Other than falling to the Spurs in the season opener, the most Golden State flirted with being anything other than the Finals favorites last year was during a three-game losing streak (their longest all season, tied for the league low)—and that happened only once. Other than Kevin Durant sitting out March and some of April, Golden State remained the safest bet (and one with terrible odds) throughout the season.
After dominating last season, the returning Warriors roster feels like those little ADT security signs people put in their yards, taunting that failure is certain before an attempt is even made. But there is a possible problem area of their upcoming schedule, one that might crack their invulnerability. Starting January 12 (fresh off the holidays and all the sweets that go with them), Golden State kicks off its second-longest road trip, a five-game outing that ranges from Toronto to Houston.
During that time, the Warriors will play the Bucks, Raptors, Cavaliers, Bulls, and Rockets before heading home to Oracle. Starting with a back-to-back from Milwaukee to Toronto, the champs will have to guard Giannis, handle DeMar, stop LeBron, hold Zach LaVine to less than 30 shots, and then face Chris Paul and James Harden at the end of the rainbow, all in an eight-day span.
The Stretch When LeBron Starts With the “We Need a Fucking Playmaker” Quotes
The King announced that grievance, a demand that the “top-heavy” Cavaliers get some backup, in late January of last season. This season, LeBron might be without his starter at point guard, as well, if Kyrie Irving’s reported trade request is honored. It’s easier to bottle the frustrations that come with Iman Shumpert’s “shooting” and J.R. Smith making this face after a play call when Kyrie is around to do these wonderful things—if he’s dealt, the Cavaliers’ point guard ceiling height depends on the resurrection of Derrick Rose.
This season, around the one-year anniversary of LeBron asking Dan Gilbert for a playmaker, Cleveland will coincidentally face one of its toughest stretches. In the month of February, the Cavs will play Houston, Minnesota, Boston, Oklahoma City, Washington, and San Antonio. Luckily, that stretch is broken up by the All-Star break, a time to wind down (or if you’re LeBron, wine up) and rest.
The Stretch When the Mavs Decide to Tank for Marvin Bagley III
Pour one out for Dallas, whose November schedule looks like the NBA’s version of a music festival poster, sprinkled with Eastern Conference contenders like Boston and Milwaukee, and headlined by Minnesota, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Cleveland.
The Stretch Before Paul George Goes to Los Angeles
Oklahoma City is intent on giving George the season of his 27-year-old life, as a successful time alongside Russell Westbrook and Co. is the best selling point the Thunder can pitch to try to convince PG to stay in OKC this offseason. George’s sights have not so subtly been set on joining the Lakers next summer, but he claims to be open to staying in a good situation, if OKC can provide one. A playoff push matters most, but the mood leading up to traveling to Los Angeles shouldn’t be understated.
Oklahoma City plays in the City of Angels (and Magic Johnson) twice, first on January 3, and then on February 8. In the initial visit, the Thunder will be coming off two days of rest, but the latter has more potential to be problematic, with the Thunder heading down after a game in Oracle.