The National Basketball Association announced its 2016-7 schedule Thursday, which means the Golden State Warriors announced theirs, which leads us to the following truths:
* For the 71st consecutive season, each team will have the same number of games.
* For the 71st consecutive season, the regular season games will be mere prelude to the games people actually want to see.
* For the 70th consecutive season (nobody seemed to mind 1946 that much), fans and media will complain that (fill in your favorite team, even if by some mutated form of spongiform encephalopathy it happens to be the Brooklyn Nets) got screwed by the league by making the make the same number of road trips, or had to stay on the road too long, or had to play too many difficult teams in too close a time span, or had to play one more back-to-back than (fill in your least favorite team).
The release of the schedule is a useful tool for people who have tickets already, or more money to buy at face. Planning your winter is never a bad idea, even if it only means you know you have Christmas Eve and the night of the college national championship free.
The Warriors open early (San Antonio October 25), have no road trips longer than five games (last year), have five of their last six games at home (and their last five against very non-playoffy teams), have the Lakers on either side of Thanksgiving to make you swear off food before and after the big feast, and have 17 back-to-backs.
In other words, they’re big kids, and they’ll cope.
But the list of fascinating games is always longer now than it becomes when the games are actually played, especially now that the Warriors have been declared the undisputed team of the universe. When your winning percentage over the past two seasons is .826 (including the 12 playoff losses; it’s a more absurd .854 in the regular season), a lot of games either are hard sells immediately, or likely to be so by the time they are played.
So let’s break down the games as they really should be billed, rather than as how they are listed, for the use of you the consumer:
GAMES IN WHICH YOU WILL ONLY WANT TO KNOW IF THEY LOST, OR IF SOMEONE WENT CRAZY GOOD: All Eastern Conference games except for Cleveland and Boston, plus all four Phoenixes, all four New Orleanses, all three Denvers and all four Memphises. That takes care of half the schedule right there, and if you want to add the four Sacramentos because the two teams share only a highway and access to the Jelly Belly factory in Vacaville, go right ahead. That takes you to 45.
GAMES OF MILD INTRIGUE FOR POTENTIAL PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS: All four Minnesotas, all three Dallases and all three Utahs, plus the two Bostons. Another 12.
GAMES FOR THE SAKE OF HATRED AND DISGUST: All four Clippers, though this is weirdly becoming more of a reversed Bay Area-L.A. rivalry in that the Bay Area is losing interest as L.A. is now desperate to have one. Also all four Houstons, because the Rockets stand proudly as such a preposterous mess (though in fairness, they don’t have their leading dose of epicac any longer, Dwight Howard). Up to 65 now.
GAMES YOU CARE ABOUT OUT OF HISTORICAL ENVY: All four Lakers, mostly because of all the years before the world turned upside-down. The Lakers would have to go 0-82 and the Warriors 82-0 for the next 11 ½ seasons before they would have identical win totals, so the Warriors will always be the much poorer relation. An asterisk here, as the Lakers have been lousy for three years’ running and at some point people start forgetting history. Now it’s 69.
GAMES TO WATCH THE OTHER TEAM’S BEST/MOST INTRIGUING PLAYER: All four Portlands. Damian Lillard is that real. Now we’re at 73, leaving only . . .
THE PRESUMED MUST-SEES: All four Oklahoma Citys, all three San Antonios, both Clevelands. Eighty-two, just as God intended.
There are quirks here that change the subset totals, of course. You may want to see the November 7 Dallas game to give kissy-face to Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut, or November 13 for Leandro Barbosa, or December 17 for the Festus Ezeli. You may want to schedule the November 18-19 back-to-back in Boston and Milwaukee (where the 24-game winning streak died). You may even want to see Ben Simmons twice for some godforsaken reason.
But the Warrior schedule is really the same in one important way. It starts three days after the regular season ends, almost certainly at home. So do yourself a favor and don’t get caught in the “Gee, I wonder how many games they’ll win this season” trap you did last year. If the number isn’t 16, and the only games you count are the playoffs, you’re missing the point.