In perusing over the newly-released 2008/09 schedule, it's clear that another bad start to the season is simply inexcusable.
Bad starts have repeatedly killed us in the past. Last year, of course, we lost our first five games pretty badly despite having complete roster continuity, and it cost us down the line. Now, we weren't winning in Boston on their opening night and probably were going to lose to either Orlando or Denver, but imagine if we beat Indiana and New Jersey as we should. Win those two and the infamous Juan Carlos Navarro game and we would have earned the home-court advantage against Cleveland in the playoffs.
But wait, there's more. We started 4-9 in 2007 and 12-18 in 2006. 2006 was particularly loony, since Caron Butler was playing off the bench, Chucky Atkins was screwing all sorts of stuff up and Antonio Daniels wasn't doing anything. I'm willing to excuse that tough start, since we were adjusting without Larry Hughes and learning how to incorporate several new faces. But, 4-9 in 2007? The only new piece we needed to integrate was DeShawn Stevenson. I'm not sure a better start would have made a difference in the playoffs, but three more wins there gives us the Southeast Division.
This year, we're going to have roster continuity and a pretty easy schedule. Eight of our first 14 are at home (actually, 15 of our first 24, to be exact), and of the six road games, only two are against playoff teams from last year (Detroit 11/1, Orlando 11/8). We do have tough home games against Utah (11/12), Houston (11/21) and Orlando (11/27), but otherwise, Atlanta's the only other playoff team we face. We have two with Miami (home and away), two with the Knicks (home and away), two with a weakened Hawks team (home and away), New Jersey (at home to start the season), Golden State (at home) and Milwaukee (on the road). There's no reason why we can't win 10 of those 14 games.
We'll need it too, because December brings Boston, Detroit, the Lakers, Philadelphia and Dallas to the Phonebooth and includes road trips to New Orleans, Houston, Philadelphia and Cleveland.
A fast start should be something to count on, since there are no new players to incorporate into the system (unless Dee Brown counts). It's time to stop shrugging off bad Novembers.
Other quick notes about the schedule:
- We have 11 National TV appearances, tied for 12th in the league with Orlando and Utah. Seems pretty typical considering our place in the league, but I think it proves that we clearly have a national profile
- We have 18 back-to-backs, which seems a bit on the high side. Last year, we had 17. The second games of those sets are as follows: @Orlando, @Atlanta, @New York, Portland, @Chicago, @New Orleans, Toronto, Charlotte, @LA Lakers, LA Clippers, @Charlotte, San Antonio, @Milwaukee, @Dallas, @LA Clippers, @Phoenix, @Indiana and Cleveland.
- Good news: No long road trips this year. Bad news: Three four-game trips and one five-of-six stretch at the end of December.
- Only one home game against Boston this year, which I find pretty disappointing. That game is on December 11 and it'll be on ESPN
- We play Cleveland and Toronto twice each in our final six games, which is huge for playoff positioning. Then, we close at Boston, which could suck if Boston is still chasing a playoff seed, but would be nice if the Celtics wrap up the East early again
- Other than three straight road games against New Orleans, Houston and Boston from December 27 to January 2, I don't see any particularly tough short stretches. Every road trip has at least one winnable game in it.