Even with the NBA season more than two months away, real excitement is beginning to build, and that was fostered by the league's release of the full schedule on Wednesday evening. The season opener for the Atlanta Hawks falls on Wednesday, October 29th with a trip to Toronto to face the Raptors, and the home opener is set for Saturday, November 1st at Philips Arena, as the Hawks take on the Indiana Pacers.
The schedule is (incredibly) fun to focus on during the off-season, and there is plenty of material that should excite Hawks fans. For instance, the 2014-2015 campaign features nine home games on either Saturday or Sunday (weekend hoops!), and Atlanta will be featured on national television on at least four occasions, with two of those appearances coming on ESPN.
The longest home stand for the Hawks comes in mid-to-late January, when Atlanta plays seven straight contests at Philips Arena from January 19th through January 31st. Of course, that is balanced out with a stretch that includes eight out of ten road contests to start the new year.
Unfortunately, there is a bit of a road block in this year's schedule, as the Hawks have been pegged for 21 sets of back-to-back games. That figure ranks second in the NBA (only Detroit has more), and it is never a positive to see the team embark on that many nights with limited energy reserves. Back on the positive side, though, Atlanta does host a great deal of action at Philips Arena during the holiday season, with home games book-ending Thanksgiving on Wednesday, Nov. 26, Friday, Nov. 28, and Saturday, Nov. 29 (as well as a December 26th home tilt) to provide families with an opportunity to entertain out-of-town guests.
While there is plenty more to tackle with regard to a long, 82-game slate that includes 41 home dates in the capital of the South, it is time to look at some of the "highlight" match-ups. Here is a glance at twelve games with some added intrigue:
- Saturday, November 1st - Indiana Pacers - Home opener! In addition to that, facing off with Indiana should bring thoughts of playoff fever flooding back into the consciousness, and by the looks of things, the Hawks should be the better team this season.
- Wednesday, November 5th - @ San Antonio Spurs - Fortunately, this isn't the ring ceremony for the defending NBA champions, but having to go to their place early in the year certainly isn't ideal.
- Friday, November 14th - Miami Heat -
LeBron is coming!Oh... The Miami Heat are now led by Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and theoretical Hawks target Luol Deng, and it will be quite interesting to see just how many "real" Heat fans arrive at Philips Arena.
- Friday, November 28th - New Orleans Pelicans - Anthony Davis! I am incredibly high on Davis, and this marks the one and only appearance for "The Brow" this season. It will be appointment viewing.
- Monday, December 15th - Chicago Bulls - Derrick Rose is back (at least for now), and the Bulls are a darling of the Eastern Conference. Throw in the ominous track record of events when they visit Atlanta, and fireworks could be on the horizon.
- Tuesday, December 23rd - Los Angeles Clippers - Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Doc Rivers are in town for a holiday appetizer. That will be fun.
- Tuesday, December 30th - Cleveland Cavaliers - LeBron James and what will surely be a large contingent of fans invade Philips. Oh, and Cleveland should be pretty good at basketball this season.
- Monday, January 19th (MLK Day) - Detroit Pistons - We touched on this game prior to the schedule release, but it is always an awesome scene in Atlanta for MLK Day. Bringing Josh Smith to the arena should bring some added interest, but it's all about paying respect to a true pioneer and the Hawks do a fantastic job.
- Friday, January 23rd - Oklahoma City Thunder - Many people have pegged the Thunder as title favorites with their core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, and this is their only appearance at Philips Arena this season. Always fun.
- Sunday, January 25th - Minnesota Timberwolves - Andrew Wiggins! The T-Wolves won't be good this season, but at the very least, they'll be entertaining as long as Wiggins is around.
- Wednesday, March 18th - @ Golden State Warriors - Few things are more enjoyable than a 10:30 pm ET tip-off on a Wednesday night. The Warriors are extremely entertaining, and they should call this the "diehard special".
- Wednesday, April 15th - @ Chicago Bulls - The season finale doesn't always matter in the NBA, but having to go on the road to Chicago isn't ideal. The stakes could be high or non-existent. This game is eight months away.
There you have it. There is plenty of time to look ahead to the festivities, but the schedule is out and we can all plan accordingly. The NBA is almost back, and it's fantastic.