It is literally never too early to start thinking about the next NBA season. Here we are on August 11th and the NBA has just released the 2016-17 regular season schedule. It is officially safe to confirm this: the Raptors are in there. As with last year, they will play 82 regular season games.
Now, some key dates and information:
- The Raptors season and home opener are both on October 26 vs. the Detroit Pistons — it’s the earliest start to the season in franchise history.
- Like last season, the Raptors’ longest road trip is the dread west coast swing over Christmas and New Years, running a total of six games from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3 against Utah, Portland, Golden State, Phoenix, Los Angeles (Lakers), and San Antonio. Happy holidays!
- The Raptors longest homestand is six straight games from Nov. 28 to Dec. 8 against the likes of Philadelphia, Memphis, Los Angeles (Lakers, again!), Atlanta, Cleveland, Minnesota (will Andrew Wiggins get boo-ed this time?)
- As with last year, Toronto will play a total of 17 pairs of back-to-back games (man, that feels like a lot).
- Bring your feelings: Bismack Biyombo’s return to Toronto is scheduled for January 29 (with James Johnson’s return set for November 4; I’m not the only one who cares).
- LeBron James will be at the ACC right from the jump on October 28 — the second game of the season — so start getting ready now.
- The Warriors lone visit to Toronto comes on November 16.
- Now, let’s talk rivalries! Uh, actually, the Raptors don’t have any natural rivals. So let’s go with our nemesis instead: the Chicago Bulls, featuring the unholy alliance of newest Raptor killer Doug McDermott and newest member Dwyane Wade. They’ll be in Toronto (mercifully) only once on March 21.
- Fine, I’ll mention this: Just two days before the Bulls at the ACC, the Raptors will play the Pacers for the first time on March 19 at home (and then just two more times in Indiana on March 31 and April 4).
- Here’s an interesting quirk: This season will feature the first home back-to-back in a non-abbreviated season since 1997-98 when the Raptors take on the Lakers on Dec. 2 and then the Hawks on the 3rd.
- Finally: The Raptors are scheduled for a whopping 14 U.S. national television appearances — but only four of them on ESPN (at home against Cleveland, Golden State, Chicago and Indiana) and two on TNT (at home against Minnesota and on the road against the Knicks).
We’ll have more analysis of the schedule in the days to come and make a stab at predictions, just for the hell of it.