With the unveiling of the 2016 NBA schedule yesterday, we got a look at some of the marquee match-ups for the Lakers over the next season. As there has not been much news around the league lately and with fans dying with anticipation for the upcoming season this gives fans something to look forward.
This year will start the post-Kobe era and all eyes will be on the young core of D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and second overall pick Brandon Ingram. Not only will the youth on the roster begin their challenge of making the franchise a perennial contender again, Luke Walton will begin his head coaching career in hopes of building something special in Los Angeles.
Training camp begins at the end of September but in the meantime, let us take a look at some games to look forward to during the upcoming season.
Lakers vs Rockets – October 26th
Opening night. The beginning of another season for the franchise. With this matchup, the Houston Rockets bring new head coach and former Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni back to LA for the first time since his departure. Unfortunately for fans of the purple and gold there will be no Dwight Howard as he left in free agency (again) for the Atlanta Hawks but the game has intriguing battles nonetheless.
James Harden will bring his offensive prowess to Staples Center and D’Angelo Russell, someone who has been compared to Harden, will try to start the Lakers off on the right foot. This game also will be the debuts of Luke Walton in the coaching seat, new draft picks Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac, and free agent acquisitions Timofey Mozgod and Luol Deng.
Lakers at Warriors – November 23rd
This will actually be the second of the four games between the divisional foes but it will be the first game in Oracle, so the return of Luke Walton to face his former team who is coming off a 73 win season and somehow got even better. Although I do not expect this game to be competitive by any means, it will be interesting to see how Russell, Ingram and Randle fare in their match-ups against Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green. These players all have obvious similarities in the way they play and this should be a moment for the young guys to gain some experience against the top players at their respective positions.
Lakers vs Timberwolves – March 24th
In this meeting between two of the teams with arguably the best young cores in all of basketball, we get to see lottery picks galore. Karl-Anthony Towns, the reigning Rookie of the Year, will be coming to visit along with former top pick Andrew Wiggins, Kris Dunn, and Zach Lavine.
Amongst NBA fans, there is a debate over which team has the better core for the future so this should be a fun contest for years to come. A key player to watch here would be Randle as he was able to average over 16 points and 11 rebounds in their three games last season. Also keep an eye on the duel between Ingram and Wiggins, as they’re both very long, great wing defenders. While Ingram is further along offensively than Wiggins was coming into the league, the Wolves forward has made strides during his two seasons.
Lakers vs Clippers – December 25th
Another installment of the Christmas day crosstown rivalry that isn’t really a contest at the moment. Ever since the Chris Paul trade was vetoed and his subsequent arrival on the Clippers there has been animosity between the two teams from Los Angeles. Technically the Lakers are the home team here but that really doesn’t mean much in this matchup. This is set to be a pivotal year for the Clips as they will have the free agency of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul to handle next offseason so expect the team to not take a single game off.
This game should be exciting for the Lakers though for a few reasons, not only is sharing NBA basketball with your families on this holiday but it proves that even without Bryant or a real chance to currently be a successful team in terms of wins and losses, the team is still expected to produce massive ratings. So take that everyone on Twitter complaining about the purple and gold getting so many nationally televised games!
Lakers at Celtics – February 3rd
It’s Lakers vs Celtics, I really shouldn’t have to say much more.
But even if both teams aren’t competing for titles this is still one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. I have this game over their matchup in March just due to the fact that it is in Boston and there is not much on this earth sweeter than silencing Celtics fans on the road.
For Russell, this will be his second trip to the TD Garden. For Brandon Ingram, it will be his first taste of the rivalry and all its history. Boston is supposed to be contenders in the East this season with the addition of Al Horford, but expect the Lakers to try to make this one a sour welcome to the rivalry for the former Hawk.
Lakers at Sixers – December 16th; Simmons vs Ingram
Lakers at Cavaliers – December 17th; Taking on the champions
Lakers at Knicks – February 6th; Visiting Madison Square Garden
Lakers at Warriors – April 12th; Last game of the season
Lakers vs Pelicans – March 5th; The return of Robert Sacre
For the Lakers full 2016-17 season schedule, click here.
All statistics provided by Basketball Reference.