Hope the Raptors got their share of rest over this extended off-season – they’ll need it.
The NBA schedule, which was released on Tuesday night, wasn’t kind to anyone; such is the nature of a 66-game tilt being crammed into a short, four-month window. But it’s hard to fathom a tougher stretch faced by any NBA franchise than the Raptors’ January slate.
Toronto will spend New Year’s Eve flying Dallas to Orlando to prepare for a New Year’s Day visit to the Magic that will kick off a month of 19 games in 31 days, 12 of which will come on the road. Within that will be a rough grind of seven games in just nine nights, including the club’s lone back-to-back-to-back set from January 9-11th (vs. Minnesota, @ Orlando, vs. Sacramento).
Beyond a grueling January, the schedule produced its share of interesting quirks for the Raptors. They will be on the road for 17 of their first 26 games, only to promptly even things out with a seven-game homestand from February 8th to 22nd. Due to the All-Star break, which will occur February 24-27, the team (those not selected for the weekend’s festivities, anyway) won’t actually have to take to the road at all between their Feb. 6th game in Washington and their Feb. 28th game at Houston.
Notable by their absence are Toronto’s Sunday afternoon home tilts, which typically attract families and include the opportunity for kids to take a shot on court after the game. Only one such game can be found on the schedule (February 12 against the Lakers), with the three other Sunday home games all taking place at 6:00pm.
If Raptor fans are going to circle one stretch of games on their must-see calendar, they might want to consider a five-day period in February in which the Celtics, Lakers, Knicks and Spurs will all be in town. From February 10th to 15th, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli and whomever else these teams may get their hands on in the coming weeks will all be plying their trade in Toronto.
Aside from that marquee week, some key home dates include the home opener on December 28th against the Pacers, a Minnesota visit on February 9th which will feature the NBA’s first Ricky Rubio-Jose Calderon showdown, a March 4th visit by the Golden State Warriors, who appear to be among the favourites in the Chris Paul Sweepstakes, and welcoming a pair of Eastern Conference powers in Chicago (March 21st) and Miami (March 30th) in late March.
Among those who will not be making their annual trek across the border this season are the reigning NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Clippers’ “Blake Show”.