A lot of you have been waiting, patiently or otherwise, for the release of the 2014-15 NBA schedule. Well, your wait is over. We now know the Trail Blazers will begin their 2014-15 season at home versus the Oklahoma City Thunder, with their first road game the two nights later in Sacramento versus the Kings on Halloween. The Trail Blazers have 16 nationally-televised games (10 on ESPN and six on TNT) with the rest airing on KGW Channel 8 and Comcast SportsNet Northwest.
The NBA was forced to push back this year’s schedule release in order to retool after it was (wisely) decided that it would be nice for players who participate in All-Star weekend to get an actual break from basketball by tacking a few extra days on to the All-Star break in February. And as you can see from the schedule, the Trail Blazers will have eight days off for the 2015 All-Star break, two days more than they got for the 2014 All-Star break. For a team that relies on their starters like the Trail Blazers do, that’s a great thing, and definitely worth waiting a few extra weeks for.
What’s more, the league was able to add those extra days to what I guess we can now call All-Star Week without starting the season much earlier or ending it much later than in 2013-14, at least for the Trail Blazers. Portland started last season on Oct. 30, just a day later than they’re starting the 2014-15 season versus the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Moda Center on Oct. 29. And the Trail Blazers end their 2014-15 regular season a day earlier than last season, all while playing the same number of back-to-backs. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is some kind of wizard.
Once again, the Trail Blazers will NOT be a part of the NBA’s Christmas Day schedule nor will they play on New Year’s Day (or Eve, for that matter), which is just fine by me, though I know many of you who don’t have to work holidays rather enjoy going to games on your off days. They will, however, play on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which has become somewhat of a tradition for the Trail Blazers, in a home game versus the Kings on January 19, 2015.
Let’s look at some of the important numbers from Portland’s 2014-15 schedule …
NUMBER OF GAMES BY MONTH
October: 2 (1 road, 1 home)
November: 15 (5 road, 10 home)
December: 16 (10 road, 6 home)
January: 16 (8 road, 8 home)
February: 9 (3 road, 6 home)
March: 16 (10 road, 6 home)
April: 8 (4 road, 4 home)
TOTAL NUMBER OF BACK-TO-BACKS: 19
BACK-TO-BACKS BY MONTH
BACK-TO-BACKS, BY TYPE
ROAD TRIPS BY NUMBER OF GAMES PER TRIP
5 games: 2
4 games: 2
3 games: 1
2 games: 5
1 game: 10
HOME STANDS BY NUMBER OF GAMES
7 games: 1 (December 24 to January 10)
3 games: 4
2 games: 7
1 game: 8
HOME GAMES BY DAY
GAMES VERSUS 2013-14 PLAYOFF TEAMS BY MONTH
A couple things …
— The first thing that strikes me about this schedule is how evenly weighted it is. December, January and March all having the same number of games, 16, and November featuring 15 games makes for a a schedule with few peaks and valleys. Even Portland’s 19 back-to-backs are spread out such a way that makes no month better or worse then the rest. And while the 2013-14 results aren’t exactly the best way to predict how good a team is going to be in 2014-15, the difficult games seem to be evenly weighted over the course of the season as well, with November, December, January and March featuring eight games against playoff teams.
— As previously mentioned, the Trail Blazers play 19 back-to-backs this season, with 10 of those taking place exclusively on the road, which means a quarter of Portland’s road games this season are on the second night of a back-to-back. That’s not fantastic, but the Blazers have been good to great in back-to-backs over the last few seasons and, in the long run, you’d probably trade more back-to-backs for shorter road trips.
— Starting the season with 11 home games, compared to just six on the road, presents the Trail Blazers with an opportunity to get off to a great start. Portland played just seven home games in November during the 2013-14 season and still managed to get off to one of their best starts in franchise history, so perhaps home games aren’t all that important to a hot start, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
And what a slate of great games in November at the Moda Center. Playing the Warriors, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Bulls, Hornets and Grizzlies should be an exciting way to start the season all while giving you a decent sense of what this Trail Blazers team is made of.
— On the flip side, December, with a five-game road trip, a four-game road trip, four road-road back-to-backs and 10 road games overall, is probably the Trail Blazers’ toughest month. March is no cakewalk either, but two games against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs on top of at Chicago, at Oklahoma City and at Houston makes December the cruelest month, in my opinion.
— But having said that, look at that beautiful home stand spanning the end of December through the middle of January. The team will get in from Oklahoma City early on Christmas Eve morning and will not board a plane until they leave for the second night of a back-to-back in Los Angeles against the Lakers on January 11. That’s 18 straight nights of sleeping in your own bed during a time of year in which most want to spend as much time at home with their families as possible. And considering that the Atlanta Hawks are likely the best team Portland will play during that home stand, that 18-day stretch seems like a great opportunity to stack some wins before the second half of the season.
— While the new and improved All-Star break results in the Trail Blazers playing just eight games in February, four fewer than last season, it might be end up being the most important month of the season thanks to games against the Suns, Mavericks, Rockets, Grizzlies, Spurs and Thunder. All of those teams either made the 2014 Western Conference playoffs or came within a few games of doing so.
— The Trail Blazers will play the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings just three times this season, while playing the other eight Western Conference teams four times. And like every non-shortened season, the Trail Blazers will face every Eastern Conference opponent twice.
Now some games of note …
Wednesday, October 29 vs. Oklahoma City, 7:30 PM
Trail Blazers open the 2014-15 season at home versus the Thunder, a team that has won the Northwest Division the last four seasons, on ESPN. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, two mainstays of USA Basketball, decided to forgo playing in the upcoming 2014 FIBA World Cup, so you can assume both will be plenty rested for the start of the NBA season.
The Thunder and Trail Blazers split the 2013-14 season series 2-2, with each team winning one home and one road game.
Tuesday, November 4 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 7 PM
A huge early-season game at the Moda Center. Between the return of LeBron James, who always gives the Trail Blazers fits in Portland, and the expected addition of Lake Oswego High School alumnus Kevin Love makes this game one of the highlights of Portland’s home schedule. And that’s to say nothing of the budding friendly rivalry between point guards Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving.
The Trail Blazers swept the 2013-14 season series versus the Cavaliers, though that doesn’t matter much now given the roster turnover in Cleveland.
Friday, November 21 vs. Chicago Bulls, 7:30 PM
The last time we saw Bulls point guard Derrick Rose in an NBA game, he was limping off the court at the Moda Center after suffering a season-ending knee injury, his second in as many seasons. He’ll return to Portland almost exactly a year later (anyone else think that’s a little macabre of the NBA schedule makers) and this time he’ll have former Laker Pau Gasol in tow along with rookie Doug McDermott and the only center in the NBA who can challenge Robin Lopez for hair supremacy, Joakim Noah. This one is being picked up by ESPN, as is the game versus the Bulls in Chicago on December 12.
The Trail Blazers swept the 2013-14 season series with the Bulls. In fact, the Blazers haven’t lost to the Bulls since 2010.
Friday, November 30 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves, 7 PM
Assuming the reports that the Timberwolves will send Kevin Love to Cleveland in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and some combination of draft picks is true, this will be our first chance to get an in-person look at No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, not to mention Zach LaVine, the ultra-athletic guard the Timberwolves selected with the 13th overall pick. Minnesota will once again be in full rebuild mode if the trade rumors are to be believed, but they’ll have enough talent to make games interesting, if not entirely competitive.
Portland went 3-1 versus Minnesota last season.
Monday, December 15 vs. San Antonio Spurs, 7 PM
This will be Portland’s first crack at the team that eliminated the Trail Blazers from the 2014 Playoffs before steamrolling their way to yet another championship. The Spurs treat the regular season with thinly-veiled contempt, so there’s no guarantee that the likes of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili won’t be resting even this early in the season, but they’ve shown throughout the years that they don’t need their best players to beat you.
The Trail Blazers and Spurs split the series 2-2 last season before San Antonio took the second-round 4-1.
Monday, December 22 @ Houston Rockets, 5 PM
If the gave versus the Spurs is the yin, this game versus the Rockets is the yang. This game will be Houston’s first chance to get some pent-up frustration out of their collective systems after the Rockets were eliminated from the 2014 Playoffs in Game 6 at the Moda Center. Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik are all gone, but James Harden and Dwight Howard still pose a formidable duo.
Portland lost the season series 3-1 to the Rockets, though as was the case with the Spurs, the playoff series record is what really mattered.
Monday, January 5 vs. L.A. Lakers, 7 PM
The Los Angeles Lakers just ain’t what they used to be, but Trail Blazers fans get pumped up for this one regardless. Kobe Bryant’s last great game, a 47-point, eight-rebound, five-assist, four-block, three-steal performance while playing all 48 minutes, took place at the Moda Center on April 12, 2013, so it will be interesting to see what the “Black Mamba” has left in the tank after sitting out all by six games of the 2013-14 season. It’ll also be a fun sociological experiment to see how many Lakers fans show up at the Moda Center now that they’ve fallen on some hard times.
Greetings podcast enthusiasts. Between CJ McCollum getting an extension and Moe Harkless signing a new deal, Portland’s roster for the start of the 2016-17 regular season is all but finalized. So it seemed like a good time to hit the studio with Joe Freeman of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this edition, we discuss the near-max extension for McCollum and the four-year, roughly $40 million contract for Harkless, which directions Terry Stotts might go in terms of starting lineups and minutes allocations, the news that both Al-Farouq Aminu and Festus Ezeli will forego playing for Nigeria at the 2016 Summer Olympics, give a quick rundown of the preseason schedule and answer your Twitter-submitted questions.
Last weekend, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and his older brother, Errick, were guests on ESPN’s SportsCenter to discuss, amongst other things, The Basketball Tournament, which is billed as a “open application, 5-on-5, single-elimination, winner-take-all basketball tournament” in which the winning team takes home $2 million in prize money. Errick’s team, Overseas Elite, won the tournament last year and are in the finals, which airs Tuesday at 4 PM Pacific on ESPN, again this year.
But the tournament wasn’t the only topic of conversation, as any time you get two brothers together, you’re contractually obligated to ask them which is mom’s favorite. One one had, CJ still lives with his mom, so you might assume he’s the got the No. 1 son ranking sewn up, but it sounds like Errick was the much better behaved child and mom’s tend to have long memories, so it sounds like it’s a bit of a tossup.
“CJ, he was a good kid,” said Errick, “he just liked to get into things. He was really physical. She couldn’t take him around any other kids or he would, like, get into little altercations with them because he just played too rough.”
Sounds about right.
On Thursday, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was a guest on The Doug Gottlieb Show on CBS Sports Radio. Over the 15 minute conversation, Stotts discusses LeBron James saying he would have been his pick for 2016 NBA Coach of the Year, Kevin Durant signing as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors, the notion of “super teams” in the NBA, having confidence in your players and his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive.
You can listen to the entire interview here, though I’m transcribed a portion which you can read below…
On LeBron James saying Stotts should have been Coach of the Year:
“To be honest, it felt pretty good. I have a lot of respect obviously for LeBron, what he does and what he’s done in his career, but for him to come out and say that, it made me feel good.”
On Cleveland winning the NBA Finals after being down 3-1 to Golden State:
“Obviously it was historical. A lot of things went into it, but when a team can do that and to win two games on the road being down 3-1, it’s really remarkable. It just put an end to a historical season as it was with Golden State and what they did during the regular season, the way they came back against Oklahoma City and then for Cleveland to do that, it was just remarkable. I thought it was a remarkable season to begin with and it finished that way.”
On Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors:
“My first reaction was he earned the right to be a free agent. I know a lot of thought went into it and it wasn’t a decision that he took lightly. I know he took a lot of criticism for making that decision but I think he earned that right to make whatever decision he felt was best for him. I think it’s going to be interesting with Golden State. Obviously defending them is going to be a challenge because — we talked about versatility — they were already an extremely talented offensive team and he’s going to make them better. They’re going to be a different team than they were last year, they’re not going to have the big guys. When you lose Festus Ezeli, who is on our team now, and Andre Bogut and Maurice Speights, the look of their frontline is going to be different. But I think they could be just as good just because of what they’ll be able to do at the offensive end.”
His thoughts on “super teams” in the NBA:
“You know, I don’t know if it’s good or bad for the league. I’ve just kind of accepted that that’s the way things are. I know people have made comparisons when LeBron went to Miami and that was supposedly the first super team and they won two championships, but it’s not like there was a five year, seven year run dynasty. When you get out on the court, you still have to play the games. Obviously Golden State is going to be very good, but you’ve got to play an 82-game season, you’ve got to go through four series to win a championship. I think the league does thrive on star power, whether it’s star power within a team or having a team be a star. I don’t know, I think the league is doing extremely well, I think it’s extremely popular. I think this is just another story that people are going to be interested in.”
On having confidence in shooters like Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum:
“I’m a big believer in confidence when shooting. It probably goes back to my freshman year in college when I didn’t know whether to shoot or (laughs) you know the phrase. But anyway, I’m a big believer in confidence and Allen and CJ are two different categories. CJ struggled with injuries his first two years and was trying to get incorporated into a roster that was winning 50 games and never really got into a rhythm. I think shooting is about rhythm and confidence. Same thing for AC, really, is that he did have opportunities to play in his first two years but he was playing behind Wes Matthews and Nic Batum and his opportunities on the court were limited. When you’re looking over your shoulder and trying not to make mistakes and putting pressure on (yourself) to make a shot, it’s difficult. I really give it to CJ and Allen, they were ready for this year and they were prepared for it, the opportunity was going to be there. But I think that a lot of players — and you know, you played — is that if the coach trusts me, I’m going to play better. Whether I trusted them or not their first two years, certainly their opportunity was there and I trusted them with the role that they were going to have.”
On his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive:
“Every year what I do is I go through the closet and knowing that I’m going to get some suits in the fall, I go through and weed out the older ones. There’s certain ones that I do kind of have a special place in my heart for them, but other than that, I just take some of the older suits and the Men’s Wearhouse has a great program with the suit drive to give away suits to people who can use them. I’m kind of a bigger guy so hopefully there’s some big guys out there who are able to take advantage of them.”