Unlike last season, the Lakers will not be bailed out by an easy schedule to open up the season. Instead, November 2007 brings quite the opposite for the Lakers as they have arguably one of the toughest slates of opening month games in the entire NBA.
The team began their quest for a top spot in the Western Conference with an exciting—albeit disappointing—loss to the Houston Rockets on Oct. 30. While the Rockets are widely considered one of the West’s developing powerhouses, it was the Lakers who showed impressive resolve at the end of the game, clawing their way back in the final minute and a half to tie the score before Battier’s three KO’d them once and for all. If the Lakers hope to finish the month over .500, they will need to display a similar sense of
urgency…for an entire 48 minutes this time.
The rest of opening week will see the Lakers take on their Pacific Division rival Phoenix Suns this Friday. After bowing out of the playoffs the past two seasons at the hands of Steve Nash and Co., the team will need to build on the positive nuggets gained in the season opener. Specifically, the team must reduce their turnovers, control the pace and make free throws. Even if all goes as planned, it still may not be enough to prevent an 0-2 start.
Next up for the Lake Show are the pesky Utah Jazz (Nov. 4), New Orleans Hornets (Nov. 6) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (Nov. 9). Utah comes into STAPLES Center on the heels of their surprising run to the Western Conference Finals last season. Meanwhile, the Hornets are one of the most difficult teams to prognosticate heading into the season since it has been over a year since they have played at full strength. Minnesota, on the other hand, is in full-fledged rebuilding mode after trading longtime superstar Kevin Garnett this summer. As has been the case for several seasons now, there are no easy opponents in the Western Conference so none of the three matchups will be a walk in the park for the Lakers. Thankfully, rest should not be too big a factor as the team has at least one day off before each game to recuperate.
The Lakers face the heart of their opening month schedule beginning Nov. 13 against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers picked up a hard-fought (and rare) win at AT&T Center last year and an encore performance should prove equally as difficult. The team then heads to Houston (Nov. 14) for leg two of the vaunted Texas Triangle (minus the Mavericks this time around), looking for revenge against the same Rockets team that defeated them on opening night.
The schedule does not loosen up as the team flies back to Los Angeles for a Friday night showing against perennial championship contenders Detroit (Nov. 14). The Lakers will then don their white uniforms as they welcome the Chicago Bulls to town for a Sunday affair Nov. 16—no doubt amid intense media scrutiny stemming from Kobe’s speculated preference to be traded to the Bulls.
Tuesday, Nov. 20, will hopefully bring some slight relief to the schedule as Jermaine O’Neal and his Indiana Pacers will take on the same Lakers team the star was rumored to be traded to this offseason. Milwaukee is next on the agenda as the Lakers fly from Indianapolis to Wisconsin for a back-to-back matchup on Nov. 21.
Two days later (Nov. 22), the Lakers rekindle one of their oldest rivalries against the reconstructed Boston Celtics. The two teams played tug-a-war with Minnesota over Kevin Garnett for most of the summer, with the Celtics eventually offering a trade package that was more appealing to the T-Wolves. Needless to say, both teams should be playing with a little something extra.
November concludes with home games against New Jersey (Nov. 25), Seattle (Nov. 27), Denver (Nov. 29) and a Friday night matchup in Salt Lake City against the Jazz on Nov. 30. With the exception of Seattle, all four of the teams participated in the playoffs last season and should ensure that the Lakers will not take any sighs of relieve following some of their tougher games earlier in the month.
The Bottom Line:
In order to avoid a sluggish start that could doom their hopes of securing a top seed in the Western Conference, the Lakers will need to draw upon their collective talent—especially in the absence of Lamar Odom. Lingering drama surrounding Kobe also threatens to damage team psyche so finding a resolution—and quick—could also determine how they fare in a first-month schedule that offers little reprieve.