Here we go the Schedule is out and time to break it down. What a way to get it started. It had been rumoured for well over a week. King James and Shaq will open there NBA partnership in Toronto. Well technically it will start the night before.
November-16 games and 2 in October.
8 home dates and 10 road dates.
You are going to find out what this Raptors are all about early. If the Raptors exit November at .500 or better this team really could be very good. You will get to see Vince Carter and Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic twice. The Suns also will be facing the Raptors twice. Along with a number of other playoff teams from last season. We also will see the top 2 picks in the NBA draft in Blake Griffin and Hasheem Thabeet. Chuck Swirsky and the Bulls hit T-dot on November 11th. This is going to be a serious test to start this season. Jay Triano will really have a challenge to get his first full year as head coach of to a positive start. San Antonio, Dallas, Denver and Detroit are all on the schedule too. This will be really interesting to watch. A four game west coast trip should tell us a lot about this team facing ( Clippers, Suns, Nuggets and Jazz)
8 home dates and 7 road dates
December sees the Raptors face the Wizards, Hawks and Pistons twice.The Pistons will be an extended back to back before and after the Christmas break (December 24-26) .There is 9 games in total vs the Southwest Division. I feel that this could be the best division in the Eastern Conference. A stretch from the 5th to the 9th could be key where Raps will play Chicago, Minnesota and Milwaukee. Those are 3 games that the Raptors need to get. Depending on how things get started the Raptors may be fighting an uphill battle after a very tough opening to the schedule. Raptors have to come out of December with a winning record if they have any thoughts of being a contender for a home court advantage playoff spot. They likely could be battling Atlanta for that 4th spot in the east.
January -15 games
7 home dates and 8 road dates
2010 start with a bang taking on the Boston Celtics in Boston on January 2nd. San Antonio, Orlando and Philadelphia all on the sked before a re-match with the Celtics on January 10th at the A.C.C. That is not exactly an easy start to the new year is it? Add in the defending champion Lakers making their lone visit the the A.C.C on the 24th. Another month in which the Raptors would or should be happy if they can get out of it with a winning record. 2 games vs Knicks, Pacers and Bucks become must wins for the Raptors given the number of good teams they have to face beyond that.
7 home dates and 3 road dates
If the Raptors do not go anything short of 8-2 in this month this season is in serious trouble. It gets no easier than this. Not just the fact that there is 7 home dates. But the competition level goes off a cliff. Portland, Cleveland and perhaps Washington and Philadelphia are the 4 games that will be a challenge. The rest is games that you better win type games. If the Raptors are truly playing at a high level this could easily be a month that they can win 9 games. Given what they faced coming to this point they will need to get as many wins as possible to but some distance between themselves and the .500 mark. No losing to Oklahoma City this year can happen where the Raptors will close out the month on the 28th.
March- 16 games
7 home dates and 9 road dates
March features a 4 game west coast swing that starts in L.A with the defending champion Lakers and ends in Portland with the young talented Blazers. Stops in Sacramento and Oakland to take on the Kings and Warriors in between that. This happens from the 9th-14th. The good news is they will have a few days to recover for the Hawks who the Raptors will take on March 17th (wearing those ugly green uniforms no doubt) for St Patrick's Day at the A.C.C. Some tough games mixed in with some easy games that Raptors must win. Utah and Denver visit the A.C.C late in the month on the 24th and 26th. This will be a challenging month but it will need to be a good one to establish the squad as a playoff team. If the Raptors can be firmly in the playoffs by the time they face the Clippers @ the A.C.C to close out the month.
April- 8 games
4 home dates and 4 road dates
No coasting into the playoffs for the Raptors in April. There are 5 games that should define this final stretch. Philadelphia(3rd), Cleveland (6th), Boston (7th), Atlanta (9th) and Detroit (12th). That 3 game stretch facing Cavs, Celtics and Hawks could really mean a lot and it could mean a lot. The Raps close out with 2 of the last 3 at home taking on Chicago with the road game vs Pistons and back home to close the season vs the N.Y Knicks.
That is it. Raptors will need to gel fast and be on the ball out of the gate. If they are not. It could be a season of playing catch-up the entire year. The Raptors need to be in a solid position by the time February hits to take advantage of a real turn in the schedule. Some will say that Raptors can take advantage of teams facing them early on. But let's not forget the Raptors will have 7 or 8 new faces to work together as well. Sam Mitchell had his struggles at first with a new group like this. He would turn it around and Raptors would win a Division Title. Triano will need to get this thing off to a better start than Sam did in that season. The East is not the same as it was back then. It is a lot better. In the end if you see the Raptors above .500 heading into 2010 this could be a very good season. If not the Raptors may have to scrap to secure a playoff spot that gives them a realistic chance to win a series. 6, 7 and 8 is not going to be any fun at all.