New coach Kevin McHale and his Houston Rockets will not have the schedule-maker to kick around in the event they do not live up to the playoff expectations that they’ve set.
It’s inevitable that when cramming 66 games into what is, when you discount the All-Star break, a 17-week schedule, there will be more than normal wear-and-tear and less than normal personnel development. Travel’s apt to be a bit hectic as well.
The traditional 82-game NBA schedule spans about 24 weeks or so, an average of 3.42 games per week. The re-worked slate of games requires a pace of 3.88 games per week.
By logic, days off will be fewer and consecutive days off a rare treat—the Rockets will enjoy a mere eight of these multi-day respites.
All in all, however, the burden of the Rocket roster that McHale and GM Daryl Morey will ultimately assemble will not be that much out of the ordinary.
The team will play 21 back-to-backs, in addition to its New Year’s Eve-concluding three-fer, which begins and ends with a home game against a team who will have played the night before.
The schedule-maker would also seem to have gotten a visit from the Ghost of Schedule Makers Past—former Philadelphia Warriors owner Eddie Gottlieb—as the Rockets will play an away-and-home series with both the Thunder and Denver Nuggets. Evoking nostalgia while equalizing the inconvenience of travel. (Maybe they should have included some good old-fashioned NBA doubleheaders at Madison Square Garden, just for Auld Lang Syne.)
The bane of the normal 82-game NBA grind is the stretch of four games in five nights—two back-to-backs with a day off in between. Our condensed schedule expands this concept into a bane-and-a-half, six games in eight nights. The Rockets face two such hurdles, one early, one late. (If the schedule is particularly harsh to them, this is how.)
The New Year brings the Rockets an absolutely brutal grind: a four-in-five, then a six-in-eight, separated by two off days. That’s 10 games in 15 days, six of them on the road.
And that hoped-for playoff charge will have to happen in the midst of the other six-games-in eight-nights sojourn, four of them road games as well.
But this schedule will be no cake walk for anybody, and Houston’s young legs would seem as up to the task as a coach could ask for.
Mr. Stern and his people are to be commended for their work here, one of the few things worthy of commendation in this whole lockout mess. Let’s just hope they won’t have to be dusting off these files in 2017, huh?
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