Documentation of a new NBA schedule isn’t complete without documenting road trips, their durations, and their opponents.
I am personally more interested in the numbers of back-to-backs and 4-in-5s. I am also more concerned about the ways in which weekend back-to-backs are handled. Those three issues stand out because there is either an emphasis on needing to reduce those elements in every annual schedule, or a discretionary capacity on the part of at least some (if not all) NBA clubs to reduce their frequency (or both).
When the issue of road trips emerges, the main point of significance is that any back-to-backs built into road trips are single-time zone back-to-backs. The NBA has made progress on this front with the 2015-2016 schedule. Back-to-backs beyond one time zone have been cut from 111 to 84. That’s solid progress, and hopefully the number can be sliced to around 60 (for an average of only two such back-to-backs per team) when the 2016-2017 schedule comes up for discussion in NBA offices.
The following “worst” road trips for each team are based on length, mostly because that’s the easiest way to sort through them, but also because a really long road trip does represent a big ask for most teams. Life on the road will be exhausting when it’s prolonged to a certain point. Some teams will play through the fatigue, but that doesn’t make a really long road trip any more fun or pleasant.
Here are the longest road trips for each of the 30 teams in the NBA this coming season. Opponents are listed in their three-letter “quick box score” formats:
ATLANTA: 5 games, March 1-10: GSW, LAL, LAC, UTA, TOR
BOSTON: 5 games, Nov. 29-Dec. 7: ORL, MIA, SAC, SAS, NOP
BROOKLYN: 9 games, Feb. 23-March 11: POR, PHX, UTA, LAC, LAL, DEN, MIN, TOR, PHI
CHARLOTTE: 6 games, Feb. 10-28: IND, MIL, BKN, CLE, IND, ATL
NOTE: Yes, the Hornets really do play the Pacers twice on the same road trip. This trip is separated by the All-Star break, which makes the schedule quirk possible. The Hornets play at Indiana, rest for the break, and then play the Pacers after the break a few weeks later.
CHICAGO: 7 games, Jan. 28-Feb. 8: LAL, LAC, UTA, SAC, DEN, MIN, CHA
NOTE: I’m sure the Bulls are thrilled to go from Los Angeles to Utah, then back to California for the Sacramento game, then back to the Mountain time zone for the Nuggets game. Brutal.
CLEVELAND: 6 games, Jan. 6-15: WAS, MIN, PHI, DAL, SAS, HOU
DALLAS: 4 games, March 23-28: POR, GSW, SAC, DEN
DENVER: 5 games, Nov. 28-Dec. 5: DAL, MIL, CHI, TOR, PHI
DETROIT: 6 games, Nov. 6-15: PHX, POR, GSW, SAC, LAC, LAL
If you’re going to have a long trip, get it out of the way. The Pistons will. Their schedule is unfavorable on a number of levels, but not in this specific respect.
GOLDEN STATE: 7 games, twice
Nov. 30-Dec. 12: UTA, CHA, TOR, BKN, IND, BOS, MIL
Feb. 10-27 (separated by the All-Star break): PHX, POR, LAC, ATL, MIA, ORL, OKC
That LAC-OKC stretch (minus ORL) could become one of the most significant road trips of the season — not just for the Warriors, but for the opponents in that sequence of games.
HOUSTON: 5 games, twice
Feb. 9-25 (separated by the All-Star break): GSW, POR, PHX, UTA, POR
March 5-12: CHI, TOR, PHI, BOS, CHA
Houston better rest up at the All-Star break and have its bench intact in late February and early March.
INDIANA: 4 games on four separate occasions
Nov. 29-Dec. 5: LAL, LAC, POR, UTA
Jan. 4-10: MIA, ORL, NOP, HOU
Jan. 17-23: DEN, PHX, GSW, SAC
Feb. 29-March 5: CLE, MIL, CHI, WAS
L.A. CLIPPERS: 5 games on four separate occasions
Dec. 7-14: MIN, MIL, CHI, BKN, DET
Dec. 25-31: LAL, UTA, WAS, CHA, NOP
Jan. 21-27: CLE, NYK, TOR, IND, ATL
March 15-23: SAS, HOU, MEM, NOP, GSW
L.A. LAKERS: 8 games, Dec. 1-12: PHI, WAS, ATL, DET, TOR, MIN, SAS, HOU
MEMPHIS: 5 games, Nov. 2-9: GSW, SAC, POR, UTA, LAC
MIAMI: 6 games, Jan. 8-17: PHX, UTA, GSW, LAC, DEN, OKC
MILWAUKEE: 4 games on three separate occasions
Dec. 15-20: LAL, LAC, GSW, PHX
Dec. 28-Jan. 2: DAL, OKC, IND, MIN
Jan. 16-23: CHA, MIA, HOU, NOP
NOTE: The Bucks play only 10 road games after the All-Star break.
MINNESOTA: 4 games, twice
Jan. 29-Feb. 3: UTA, POR, LAL, LAC
March 11-18: OKC, PHX, MEM, HOU
NEW ORLEANS: 5 games, twice
Dec. 12-20: CHI, POR, UTA, PHX, DEN
March 9-16: CHA, MEM, MIL, GSW, SAC
NEW YORK: 6 games, March 8-19: DEN, PHX, LAC, LAL, GSW, WAS
OKLAHOMA CITY: 4 games on three separate occasions
Jan. 22-27: DAL, BKN, NYK, MIN
Feb. 29-March 6: SAC, LAC, GSW, MIL
April 3-9: HOU, DEN, POR, SAC
NOTE: The Thunder play only 11 home games after the All-Star break.
ORLANDO: 5 games, Dec. 1-9: MIN, UTA, LAC, DEN, PHX
PHILADELPHIA: 6 games, twice
Nov. 20-29: CHA, MIA, MIN, BOS, HOU, MEM
Dec. 23-Jan. 2: MIL, PHX, UTA, SAC, LAL, LAC
PHOENIX: 6 games, Nov. 29-Dec. 7: TOR, BKN, DET, WAS, MEM, CHI
PORTLAND: 6 games, Feb. 27-March 6: CHI, IND, NYK, BOS, TOR, DET
CORRECTION: In earlier articles from the month of August, I had stated that Portland scheduled a home night game on Saturday, Feb. 27, before a road game on Sunday, Feb. 28 at Indiana. That statement, made in two separate articles, was incorrect. The Blazers host Houston, but on Thursday, Feb. 25. The errors have been amended in each previous article. I apologize for the errors. -M.Z.
SACRAMENTO: 5 games, Nov. 18-25: ATL, MIA, ORL, CHA, MIL
SAN ANTONIO: 8 games on the “Rodeo Road Trip,” Feb. 9-27 (separated by the All-Star break): MIA, ORL, LAC, LAL, PHX, SAC, UTA, HOU
TORONTO: 6 games, Feb. 1-19 (separated by the All-Star break): DEN, PHX, POR, DET, MIN, CHI
UTAH: 5 games, March 19-26: CHI, MIL, HOU, OKC, MIN
WASHINGTON: 5 games, March 27-April 3: LAL, GSW, SAC, PHX, LAC
Starting in Los Angeles and then circling back several days later? Two weeks before the playoffs begin? That won’t make the Wizards happy.