Jan 24, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts after making a basket against the Dallas Mavericks in the second half at Toyota Center. Rockets won 115 to 104. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
The NBA released 2016-17 schedules with the Houston Rockets getting a more favorable nod over their horrid timetable last year.
That said the Houston Rockets will play 7 of their first 8 games on the road. Recalling last season there weren’t any long home stretches of more than 3 games at a time. Granted this season the longest home stretches will be just 4 games long, occurring on 4 occasions.Conversely Houston will have three stretches of 5-game road trips.
The squad will play 16 sets of back-to-back series with 10 of them finishing on the road. The good news the Rockets will complete 13 of the back-to-backs prior to the All-Star Break.
James Harden and company won’t have to wait long to see Dwight Howard in a Hawks jersey as they travel to Philips Arena on November 4th. Rockets fans will have to wait until February 2nd until Superman and his new team play at the Toyota Center.
Unlike last season the Rockets won’t be one of the featured Christmas Day teams. Yet, in what has become an annual event they’ll suit up on New Year’s Eve at the Toyota Center versus the Kings.
Other holiday games the Rockets play on are Boxing Day, St. Patrick’s Day
Houston won’t play on Thanksgiving or Martin Luther King Jr. Day either. Arguably an odd omission is Chinese New Year (January 28th), as the Rockets have often played on this date due to their strong ties with China.
Next: Western Powers
May 27, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) dribbles the basketball against Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the fourth quarter in game five of the Western Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Rockets 104-90 to advance to the NBA Finals. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Grab your calendars to make note of games from the Western Conference you won’t want to miss. Of note H references home games and R references road games.
Western Power Teams:
Golden State Warriors:
- Dec 1, R
- Jan 20, H
- Mar 28, H
- Mar 31, R
Rockets fans will have to wait a full month to see the new “super team” with Kevin Durant in the line-up. By that time the Warriors should have worked out chemistry kinks, beginning the gelling process.
Los Angeles Clippers:
- Dec 30, H
- Mar 1, R
- Apr 10, R
Arguably the Rockets greatest rival that isn’t part of their own division. Can Doc Rivers get his team over the invisible playoff shield continually blocking their entry to the Western Conference Finals?
Portland Trail Blazers:
- Nov 17, H
- Nov 27, R
- Mar 30, R
Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are locked down for the foreseeable future, while Neil Olshey re-signed young talent added intriguing front court help. After last season, Dame Lillard has made a believer out of this writer.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
- Nov 16, R
- Dec 9, R
- Jan 5, H
- Mar 26, H
Russell Westbrook assumes the role of sole super star on the Thunder. As a result, he’ll be looking to make his mark, and send a message to the Association. Due to this, I’ve earmarked him as an early MVP candidate. After falling just shy of averaging a triple-double, will the inimitable guard enter “Big O” triple-double season average territory?
Next: Southwest Rivals
Feb 27, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) attempts to get control of the ball against the Houston Rockets during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Southwest Division Rival Games:
Entering this season the Southwest remains arguably the toughest division in the West. Notably each of the 5 teams altered their rotations. Likewise the Rockets added 2 core players from one of their SW rivals.
- Oct 28, R
- Oct 30, H
- Dec 10, H
- Dec 27, R
Call me crazy, but I think the Mavericks could be the dark horse team in the SW Division and might challenge for a home court seed. To wit, Wes Matthews has had a full season to recover from his Achilles injury. Furthermore, Dirk continues to mystify the sands of time, seemingly having channeled Hebes, the goddess of youth. Moreover Justin Anderson and Dwight Powell both demonstrate high basketball IQ to match their equally impressive talents.
Of major relevance, the Mavericks reaped the benefits of the Durant signing with the Warriors snatching up Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. With what Rick Carlisle got out of Zaza Pachulia last season imagine what he could extract from a healthy Bogut.
Additionally, Barnes was the player who compensated (especially offensively) the most in Oakland for the Splash Brothers. Given a larger piece of the pie may find the versatile forward taking a big leap forward.
Suffice to say I won’t be shocked if the Rockets highway rivals surprise many this year.
- Dec 23, R
- Jan 13, H
- Jan 21, R
- Mar 4, H
Memphis was active this summer, but the jury is out on the aging core and their ability to remain healthy. The Grizzlies invested a ton of money in Mike Conley and Marc Gasol the past 2 seasons, With Zach Randolph in the final season of his contract this season could be the last of Memphis’ Big 3.
New Orleans Pelicans:
- Dec 16, H
- Feb 23, R
- Mar 17, R
- Mar 24, H
Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon were two-fifths of the Pelicans core, and moved to the Rockets in free agency. Aside from the numerous questions regarding their durability and defensive prowess will the 2 former Pelicans make this an immediate rivalry?
San Antonio Spurs:
- Nov 9 R
- Nov 12 H
- Dec 20 H
- Mar 6 R
Next: The Next Ones?
Jan 4, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) and guard Andrew Wiggins (22) and center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) react as time winds down on a loss against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The 76ers won 109-99. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
- Nov 19 H
- Nov 28 R
- Mar 8 H
Much like the T-Wolves did last season the Jazz have added veteran voices to their youthful core. Given the Jazz core have more seasons together could George Hill, Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson add the experience to push Utah up the ladder?
- Dec 17 R
- Jan11 R
- Feb 25 H
- Apr 12, Closing Night H
My NBA League Pass guilty pleasure of 2015-16 enters the new season with reason for optimism. New head coach, Tom Thibodeau will no doubt get his youthful core’s buy-in to defense first. Could rookie guard Kris Dunn make it three ROY’s in a row for the T-Wolves? Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine offer Thibs the core of the future.
My money is on the T-Wolves having the greatest win increase and improvements defensively this season. If you love basketball, this is a team you’ll want to watch grow as they are eerily similar to the Warriors and Thunder of 5 seasons ago.
- Dec 2 R
- Mar 17 R
- Mar 20 H
- Apr 5, H
The Nuggets and Suns are stacked with so much youthful talent they’ll be in every trade conversation (along with the Boston Celtics) as 27 teams simply can’t compete with their assets.
Suns GM Ryan McDonough should have been arrested for the larseny he pulled on Kings GM Vlade Divac in the draft. McDonough sent the 13th and 28th picks plus draft rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic and their 2020 second round pick to the Kings. This netted them Marquese Chriss who was predicted to go as high as 4th and his long term potential is in the super star stratosphere.
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The Nuggets meanwhile are also chock full of youthful assets with Mike Malone the steady hand ready to development their talents and build an identity. Two of my favorite draft prospects landed in Denver in Canadian Jamal Murray and Spain’s Juan Hernangomez.
The prospect of a Mudiay and Murray back court is beyond exciting as Murray proved he’s tougher than pundits predicted during his Vegas Summer League stint. The problem for Denver is their wealth of front court depth. They’ll need to package some of it to add wings and guard depth. The problem is the assets they want to dispose of appears to be veterans teams are less interested in (Kenneth Faried for example).
Neither team has room to put all their assets on the court, a luxury most teams are salivating over. Despite this fact both teams have need of veterans, and will likely try to package some of these assets to land a franchise level player.
- Dec 21 R
- Dec 26 H
- Feb 11 H
- Apr 2, R
Phoenix may already have their franchise star in Devin Booker who thrilled in Summer League and finished last season on a roll. Entering his second season he has more offensive versatility with the ability to drive than Klay Thompson had at this stage. Mark him down as a candidate for Most Improved this season.
Next: Want to play the lottery?
Jan 28, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) looks on during a free throw attempt by the New Orleans Pelicans during the fourth quarter at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans won 114-105. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Lottery Bound Bets:
Los Angeles Lakers:
- Opening night R – Oct 26
- Dec 7 H
- Mar 15 H
The Mamba is gone, but never forgotten. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak established the template early in free agency for over paying mid level free agents (Timofey Mozgov anyone?). In spite of that fact, eventually a star will be drawn to the bright lights in Hollywood and a new era will be born. For the coming season however, don’t expect a different end of season result.
- Nov 25 R
- Dec 14 H
- Jan 31 H
- Apr 9, R
Remarkably in his 6 seasons as a pro, last year was the first time DeMarcus Cousins experienced more than 30 wins (33) with the Kings. His talent has never been questioned, but he’ll need to demonstrate the ability to lead, specifically off the court.
SCS will update as free agency news develops. For now if you’re a fan who wants to follow free agency closely consider checking out my Free Agency Profiles for all 30 teams:
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