So do you really need players to play basketball games?
With the lockout nearing three weeks old, the NBA and its teams continue to symbolically ignore the existence of its own players. But just in case this whole lockout business is settled in time--and with no timetable for substantive talks to resume, that's looking increasingly doubtful--the league figured it would draw up the 82-game schedule like it does every year.
Check out the Bucks' full schedule at Bucks.com, and read on after the jump for highlights of the schedule we hope to see in its entirety. Also worth keeping in mind: should the lockout wipe out any games, the league will have to redo the schedule to assure teams get an equal home/road split and the correct number of games against conference foes. History provides some hints as to how things might shake out. In the 50-game 1999 season, the original schedule was scrapped on October 13, with a new schedule drawn up after the lockout was resolved to assure that teams got 25 home and road games each.
Also interesting to note is that there was a severe bias to playing Conference opponents--all teams played either 44 to 45 games against conference foes. That makes sense for a couple reasons. First, because of the compressed calendar teams were playing with fewer off days, so travel to cross-country opponents was minimized to try to compensate. Secondly, fewer non-conference games was a way to make conference playoff seedings more fair. In '99, the Bucks had only two road games out West (Minny and Denver) while hosting three Western teams at the BC. So whether the modified schedule looks anything like the current one is anyone's guess, though you can figure teams will want to keep the same nights booked to simplify arena scheduling issues.
- Home opener November 5 vs. the Knicks. As usual, the Bucks open on the road, this time in San Antonio on Wednesday, November 2. Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette won't have to wait long before playing their former clubs, as the Bucks then head to Charlotte for game two on Friday, November 4 before returning home to take on the Knicks in a 7:30 tip the next day.
January looks brutal. The Bucks' biggest challenge on paper looks to be the month of January. Milwaukee plays 12 of their 16 games on the road in January, beginning with a five game Western swing through Denver, Utah, Sacramento (Beno returns!), Phoenix and the Los Angeles (Clippers) that features four games in five nights. The Bucks then come back home to face the Spurs before heading back to the road to take on the Mavericks, Rockets and Hornets.
Milwaukee then gets a winnable home game against Golden State before a nasty four game road trip through Orlando, Miami, Oklahoma City and Chicago. Yeesh. It doesn't get much easier with a home game against the Lakers before Detroit visits the BC to close out the month. It stands to reason the Bucks will probably need to pile up some wins in the first two months just so they have some margin for error heading into the new year--even a 6-10 or 5-11 month would probably be a very nice haul. In that light, a lockout which wipes out thirty games and forces another conference-heavy schedue a la '99 could be the best thing to happen for the Bucks' playoff hopes.
- The finish is nice and easy. If the Bucks can survive the first 72 games they'll be well positioned to finish the season on a high note, with seven of the final ten games at home. New York, Indiana and Atlanta (twice) are also the only playoff teams in the bunch. Of course, if the Bucks are out of contention then we'll probably be stuck arguing about the Bucks hurting their lottery odds with another pointless late-season surge.
- 22 back-to-backs. The Bucks tied for the league lead in back-to-backs last year with the Bulls (23), so a ton of back-to-backs isn't really anything new--indeed, it's four years running the Bucks have had at least 22. By my count 15 of these are Friday/Saturdays, which is understandable since teams want to maximize the number of weekend games for attendance purposes. The Bucks of course always try to get as many Saturday night games as possible, which makes them the ideal back-to-back partner for all the teams that favor Friday night home games.
- Three national TV games. No surprise here--the NBA and its TV partners didn't bend over backwards to feature the Bucks nationally. While additional games can always be added later, the only three nationally televised games currently on the docket are the games in Philly on Friday, November 11 (NBATV), in Washington on Saturday, March 10 (NBATV), and in Detroit on Friday, April 13 (ESPN).
- Eastern inequity. The Bucks get just one home game against the Nets and Hawks and one road game against the Heat and Sixers. Probably not the worst deal given the Nets should be much better and the Heat, Hawks, and Sixers are all playoff teams. Milwaukee plays every other Eastern team four times and every Western team twice.