The NBA announced its regular season schedule recently, and there are some things that don’t change: 41 home games, 41 road games, four games against each divisional opponent, two games against each inter-conference opponent, et cetera, et cetera.
Beyond that, there are always a few dates to circle, a few moments to get excited about from a Raptors perspective plus some NBA picks.
The opener: vs. Cleveland, Wed., Oct. 19.
Obviously, a game between the Raptors and Cavaliers is not going to stir a bunch of national conversation in the United States, at least after the LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard eras. However, the opener for both teams, to be played in Toronto, pits rookie of the year Scottie Barnes and runner-up Evan Mobley.
That vote was one of the closest ever, with Barnes getting five more first-place votes and just 15 more voting points than Mobley. There is a pretty defined top-four in the Eastern Conference this year, with Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Miami representing the top tier (or top two tiers, if you prefer to pair them off). The Raptors and Cavaliers are two of the more likely contenders to break into that group, and their ability to do so will start with the sophomores building upon their prodigious rookie-year outputs.
The start: oofta
In the greatest innovation to beat-writer travel since NEXUS/TSA PreCheck, the league is implementing back-to-back sets in the same city, similar to what the NBA did in the 2020-21 season (Tampa Tank). Obviously, this is not being done to coddle the likes of me, but to limit the amount of travel the players have to endure all season long.
The Toronto tourism committee
Toronto has a reputation for its, uhh, nightlife. Only two teams could be susceptible to an extended stay: Philadelphia (Oct. 26 and 28) and Charlotte (Jan. 10 and 12).
Revenge is a dish best served repeatedly
In case you have forgotten, the Pistons are 9-3 against the Raptors since Masai Ujiri fired Dwane Casey and Detroit hired him. Over those four seasons, the Pistons have a .328 winning percentage in the 290 regular season games they have played against teams other than the Raptors, while the Raptors have a .618 mark against non-Pistons teams. Hilarious!
The Raptors are in Detroit on Nov. 14 and Feb. 25, while the Pistons come to Toronto on Feb. 12 and March 24. Enjoy the losses.
Will the basketball be good? Of course not. Will you be delighted that a surprising option has been presented as an option on a bleak winter day? Of course. The Raptors play at home against the Trail Blazers (Jan. 8, 3:30 p.m.), Pistons (Feb. 12, 3 p.m.) and Bucks (April 9, 1 p.m. to close the season) and in New York (Jan. 16, 3 p.m., Martin Luther King Jr. Day), Detroit (Feb. 25, 12 p.m., noon) and Charlotte (April 2, 1 p.m.).