Notes from 2022 NBA schedule release: LeBron chasing Kareem, ‘baseball’ series

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The full NBA schedule dropped on Wednesday, all 1,230 games.

It’s a lot of information. Outside of the games you don’t want to miss, there’s a lot of ground to cover. So here are some news and notes from around the NBA about the schedule release.

• One thing the schedule makers couldn’t predict: When LeBron James will pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most regular season points in NBA history. LeBron is 1,325 points behind Abdul-Jabbar, and at his scoring pace of last season (27.1 a game), it would take 49 games to get there. It’s unlikely the Lakers will play LeBron in every one of their first 49 games this season as they try to keep him fresh for the playoffs (and there could be minor injuries that keep him out a few games) but expect to see some massaging of televised games schedule as we get into February and beyond, making sure LeBron is on national television when he breaks the record.

• The NBA says it cut down on team travel this season, with the average team traveling 41,000 miles. That is down 2,000 from last season.

• How the league is doing that: 55 “baseball series” sets where a road team plays two games in a row against the same home team. For example, the Boston Celtics head to Charlotte to face LaMelo Ball and the Hornets on Jan. 14, then both teams are off on the 15th and play again in Charlotte on the 16th. The upsides to this: It does reduce travel, which is good for player recovery; and those second games in a set can be a little more playoff like as teams adjust strategies and matchups based on what did and didn’t work in the first game. The downside is for people who go to the games. First, NBA fans aren’t used to and may skip the second game of that series, although the NBA says it didn’t see evidence of that in a smaller sample size in past seasons (that’s also less of an issue when an elite team like Boston comes to town, but is anyone looking to see the Magic or Thunder back-to-back?). Second, what if Jayson Tatum tweaks his ankle and has to sit out a couple of weeks in January — Charlotte fans will not see Tatum when he comes to town. That can be an issue when a star like Trae Young, Luka Doncic, or LeBron James comes to a city and the locals do not get to see him play because both games are within a day of each other.

• Add in times a visiting team can play the Knicks/Nets or Lakers/Clippers without traveling, and you get 88 sets of road games without travel this season.

• The best schedule release video goes to the New Orleans Pelicans, playing off the rumor GM David Griffin played piano to impress Zion Williamson.

• The Brooklyn Nets dropped from 26 nationally televised games a season ago to 13 this season because of the uncertainty about their roster and whether Kevin Durant will be on it (nationally televised meaning the game is on TNT, ESPN, or ABC).

• The Nets’ 13 is still two more nationally televised games than the Heat. The team that had the best record in the East last season, that made the Eastern Conference Finals, that went to the NBA Finals just a couple of years ago, that has Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo apparently isn’t sexy enough for the NBA schedule makers. The Heat are not even in the top 10 of teams with the most televised games. If any team should feel snubbed by the schedule makers, it’s Miami.

Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors have the most nationally televised games with 30 (starting on opening night). They are followed by LeBron James and the Lakers (27), the Celtics (25), the 76ers and Bucks (23 each).

Ja Morant was happy with the Grizzlies getting 18 nationally televised games, including on Christmas.

 

• Nine teams have just one nationally televised game: Jazz, Kings, Magic, Pacers, Pistons, Rockets, Spurs and Thunder. That’s a surprisingly low number for the Jazz, but it speaks to the depth of their rebuild (and the fact everyone around the league expects Donovan Mitchell to get traded).

• The NBA scheduled 45 games on weekends that start at noon Eastern (or a couple of hours later) this season because that puts them on in prime time in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. There are big stars in many of those games.

• The Houston Rockets have 10 of their first 13 games on the road this season, tying an NBA record for most road games in the first 13 of the season.

Ben Simmons returns to Philadelphia on November 22 (a TNT game), assuming he plays.

• The NBA is going international again, with the Bulls facing the Pistons on Jan. 19 in Paris, and the Heat and Spurs will play in Mexico City on Dec. 17.

• The final day of the NBA regular season is April 9, and all 30 teams will play that day.

Pelican’s Green says Zion ‘dominated the scrimmage pretty much’

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The Zion hype train keeps right on rolling. First were the reports he was in the best shape of his life, then he walked into media day and it looked like he is.

Now Zion has his own hype man in Pelicans coach Willie Green, who said he dominated the first day of team scrimmages. Via Andre Lopez of ESPN.

“Z looked amazing,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said on Wednesday afternoon. “His strength, his speed. He dominated the scrimmage pretty much.”

“What stood out was his force more than anything,” Green said. “He got down the floor quickly. When he caught the ball, he made quick decisions. Whether it was scoring, finding a teammate. It was really impressive to see.”

Reach for the salt shaker to take all this with — it’s training camp scrimmages. Maybe Zion is playing that well right now — he’s fully capable, he was almost an All-NBA player in 2020-21 (eighth in forward voting) before his foot injury — but we need to see it against other teams. In games that matter. Then we’ll need to see it over a stretch of time.

If Zion can stay healthy this season, if his conditioning is where everyone says it is, he could be in for a monster season. Combine that with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and a strong supporting cast in New Orleans, and the Pelicans could surprise a lot of people — and be fun to watch.

 

PBT Podcast: What’s next for Celtics, Suns? Should NBA end one-and-done?

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NBA training camps just opened and teams have yet to play a preseason game, but already two contenders are dealing with problems.

The Celtics have the suspension of coach Ime Udoka as a distraction, plus defensive anchor center Robert Williams will miss at least the start of the season following another knee surgery.

The Suns have the distraction of a suspended owner who is selling the team, plus Jae Crowder is out and demanding a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not seem happy.

Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself go through all the training camp news, including the wilder ones with the Lakers and Nets, breaking down what to take away from all that — plus how good Zion Williamson and James Harden look physically.

Then the pair discusses the potential of the NBA doing away with the one-and-done role and letting 18-year-olds back in the game — is that good for the NBA?

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Report: Price tag on Phoenix Suns could be more than $3 billion

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Six
Harry How/Getty Images
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In 2004, Robert Sarver bought the Phoenix Suns for a then-record $401 million.

When Sarver sells the team now — pushed to do so following the backlash prompted by an NBA report that found an 18-year pattern of bigotry, misogyny, and a toxic workplace — he is going to make a massive profit.

The value of the Suns now is at $3 billion or higher, reports Ramona Shelburne and Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

There will be no shortage of bidders for the team, with league sources predicting a franchise valuation of more than $3 billion now that revenue has rebounded following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a new television rights deal and CBA on the horizon. Sarver purchased the team for just over $400 million in 2004.

Saver currently owns 35% of the Suns (the largest share), but reports say his role as managing partner allows him to sell the entire team (the minority owners have to comply, although they would make a healthy profit, too). Sarver also decides who to sell the team to, not the NBA or other owners.

Early rumors of buyers have included Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), Bob Iger (former Disney CEO), Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, she has a 20% share of the Washington Wizards), and others. There have been no reports of talks yet, and Sarver does not need to be on a rushed timeline.

Meanwhile, a contending Suns team tries to focus on the season despite the owner selling the team, Jae Crowder not being in training camp and pushing for a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not sound happy to be back with the Suns.

Steve Nash on his relationship with Kevin Durant: ‘We’re good’

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In an effort to gain leverage for a trade this offseason, Kevin Durant threw down a “either the coach and GM are gone or I am” ultimatum.

Now coach Steve Nash (and GM Sean Marks) are back in Brooklyn, on the same team and trying to build a contender together. Awkward? Not if you ask Nash, which is what Nick Friedell of ESPN did.

“We’re fine,” Nash said after the Nets’ first official practice of the season on Tuesday. “We’re good. Ever since we talked, it’s been like nothing’s changed. I have a long history with Kevin. I love the guy. Families have issues. We had a moment and it’s behind us. That’s what happens. It’s a common situation in the league.

“We all were hurting, seething, to go through what we went through last year, not being able to overcome all that adversity. Sometimes you lose perspective because you expect to win, but the reality is we were able to talk and discuss what we can improve on from last year. And also keep perspective. We went through a ton of stuff.”

First off, what else was Nash going to say? He knows the power dynamic in the NBA, and Durant has far more leverage than he does — not enough to get Nash fired this summer, but still more than the coach.

Second, Nash could be telling the truth from his perspective. NBA players and coaches understand better than anyone this is a business and things are rarely personal. Grudges are not held like fans think they are (most of the time). Nash saw Durant’s move for what it was — an effort to create pressure — and can intellectually shrug it off, reach out to KD and talk about the future.

What this brings into question was one of the Nets’ biggest issues last season — mental toughness and togetherness. Do the Nets have the will to fight through adversity and win as a team? Individually Durant, Kyrie Irving, Nash and others have shown that toughness in the past, but as a team it was not that hard to break the will of the Nets last season. Are their relationships strong enough, is their will strong enough this season?

It feels like we will find out early. If the wheels come off the Nets’ season, it feels like it will happen early and by Christmas things could be a full-on dumpster fire. Or maybe Nash is right and they are stronger than we think.