The 2016-17 NBA schedule has officially been announced, and we now know who the Los Angeles Lakers will be playing and when throughout the year. The schedule will be daunting for this young squad as four of the first five games will take place on the road.
A couple of games had already been leaked out as the Lakers will open the season at home against former coach Mike D’Antoni and the Houston Rockets. The Lakers will also face their Staples Center co-inhabitants, the Clippers, on Christmas Day for the second straight season.
Those are the big games, and all eyes will certainly be on the Lakers on those nights, but the schedule as a whole is littered with extremely intriguing games that I am looking forward to.
No, the Warriors are not on this list as I personally am not looking forward to the young Lakers going face-to-face with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and the rest of those guys. Nonetheless, here are the games I’m looking forward to:
Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 13
The two best young cores in the NBA going head-to-head. D’Angelo Russell-Jordan Clarkson vs. Kris Dunn-Zach LaVine? Brandon Ingram vs. Andrew Wiggins? Julius Randle vs. Karl-Anthony Towns? Sign me up every time these two teams face (March 24, March 30, and April 9 for those wondering the other dates).
Last year these two teams faced off in a thrilling season opener that saw the Lakers blow a big lead in a heartbreaking 113-112 loss. There was also the 123-122 overtime game in December that saw Russell score a then-career-high 23 points and take over down the stretch of regulation including a jumper to send the game to the extra period.
Last year’s games between these two were some of the most exciting of the season and this year’s could be the same. Hopefully, in another couple of years, we’ll be able to look forward to these games in the playoffs.
Phoenix Suns on Nov. 6
Another exciting matchup featuring the Lakers taking on another promising young squad in a possible playoff matchup in 2019. Good friends Devin Booker and D’Angelo Russell go head-to-head in a battle of two of the best young guards in the league.
Both teams also have outstanding young frontcourts with the Lakers boasting Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., and Ivica Zubac while the Suns drafted Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss to go along with Alex Len. Needless to say, there will be a ton of young talent on the floor at all times.
New York Knicks on Dec. 10
Normally I’m partial to the Lakers playing in Madison Square Garden, but that meeting doesn’t happen until a couple of months after this initial meeting. Plus, with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in New York now, this first game is definitely must-watch.
Any chance we get to see Kristaps Porzingis again is worth the watch alone, and Carmelo Anthony is still a star in this league. Last year at Staples he took over the game down the stretch (after some words from Kobe Bryant), but maybe Larry Nance Jr. can redeem himself in his defensive job this time.
Also, Sasha Vujacic will be back in Staples Center, and I will forever love The Machine.
Philadelphia 76ers on Dec. 16
No. 1 vs. No. 2. The first head-to-head matchup between rookies Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram will obviously be a must-watch matchup.
Both Simmons and Ingram had their moments during Summer League but by the time this matchup comes around, both will have had plenty of time to get acclimated to the rigors of the NBA. These two, along with Minnesota’s Kris Dunn, are the favorites for Rookie of the Year so a good showing would be a feather in the cap of Ingram.
This could also be Lakers fans’ first look at a couple of other young Philly players in Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. These were the worst two teams in the NBA last year, but both are on the rise now.
Boston Celtics on Feb. 3
It’s Lakers-Celtics people. I don’t care what the record is for either team when the Celtics and Lakers play I get excited.
The Celtics should be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this year with the addition of Al Horford and Marcus Smart, and Avery Bradley are a great test to the Lakers backcourt as two of the best defenders in the league. Also, Ingram going head-to-head with number 3 pick Jaylen Brown should be fun.
In the end, however, the rosters and the records don’t really matter. Whether it’s Jerry West and Elgin Baylor vs. John Havlicek and Bill Russell, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, or Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol vs. The Big Three, Lakers-Celtics is always appointment viewing.