Editor's note: many of you guessed that Justin was joining the front page staff at Fear the Sword when he changed his username a few days ago. While you were correct that he is joining the front page staff, you guessed correctly for the wrong reasons. Justin's act of changing his name was quite premature (he did it before I even talked to him) and as he said, it was the equivalent of holding the pose after launching a three-pointer. It's a good thing that he ended up making that shot, otherwise he would have looked like Von Wafer in this clip. Regardless, we're very excited to bring Justin on board and he'll be helping out with previews, recaps, and other nonsense throughout the year. Welcome, Justin!
So we now know that the Cavaliers will kick off the next NBA season against Brooklyn October 30th. We also know that the Cavs will have a whopping total of 9 nationally televised games this year. This will help eliminate the small percentage of people who still don't seem to comprehend how good Kyrie Irving is. It should also lead to plenty more amazing videos like this:
Kobe & Kyrie duel in Cleveland! (via NBA)
With a side order of this:
National exposure and heightened expectations should test our young core and help people appreciate how special our core is. While being under the microscope can bring more criticism it can also cause people to become more knowledgeable about what members of the Cavaliers bring to the table. I think we can all agree that the less time we need to spend defending Tristan Thompson the better.
Now, in examining the schedule certain questions came to my mind:
What type of a start can we realistically expect from the Cavs?
I like to think of the NBA season in ten game stretches. It can help compartmentalize the season and identify the points in a year that will test the team versus the team has an opportunity to pad it's win-loss total by beating up on weaker teams. Out of the first ten games the Cavs play only three teams that finished over .500 last season (Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets).
While the Minnesota Timberwolves are improved, they are dealing with a fair amount of turnover in their organization and may take a while to hit their stride. Cleveland should be able to -- at the very least -- split the two match ups in the opening ten games or hopefully sweep the season series early.
Cleveland also plays both the Sixers and Bobcats twice in the opening stretch. If the Cavs want to give themselves breathing room later on in the season, it is crucial that they make the most out of games like these. Same goes for their games against the Milwaukee Bucks. While I do not expect them to win every game against a lesser team I do not expect them to lose all three games against the Nets, Bulls and Pacers. I think a 7-3 start to the season is a totally reasonable expectation to have.
How does the closing stretch look for the Cavs?
I found it interesting while looking at the schedule to see that during the final twenty games of the season, the Cavs only have three matchups against the other bubble teams that would be competing for a playoff spot. The generally consensus seems to be that Atlanta, Detroit, Cleveland, Washington and Toronto will be competing for the final three spots in the East. If the Cavs are to separate themselves from the other bubble teams, they likely won't be able to do it down the stretch as there are almost no head-to-head matchups with these bubble teams -- the April 9th game against Detroit being the exception. If things don't go as smoothly as we hope this year this could be a must win game that determines who makes the playoffs, and who's on the outside looking in.
What is the toughest stretch for the Cavs?
Deviating from using 10 game stretches for a moment, I think it's clear that the month of March will test the Cavs unlike any other point in the schedule. In March, the schedule features road games against the Grizzlies, Warriors, Clippers, Knicks, Pistons and Nets. As well as home tilts against the Spurs, Knicks, Heat, Thunder, Rockets, Raptors and Pacers. That's 13 out of 15 games that could really really challenge the Cavs. The other two games are on the road in Phoenix and in Charlotte. While they don't look as good on paper you never know what can happen in road games (especially if the Cavs are looking forward to their next challenging game instead of focusing on the Suns or Bobcats).
When is the best week to go catch games in Cleveland?
If you're going to pick a home stand to watch some Cavs games this season I would find it hard to find a more enticing stretch than the March 18th, 20th and 22nd games against Miami, Oklahoma City and Houston, respectively. As someone who desperately wants to make my first pilgrimage to the Q this year, that stretch of games has me looking to print off a vacation request sheet at work. It's hard to argue against a five game stretch containing players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Dwight Howard and the impossible to resist Greg Oden --sideline superstar extraordinaire.
But maybe you don't care about all the stuff above. Maybe your reason for following the NBA is more about seeing some crazy stuff go down live or behind the scenes drama. Well then here are some dates to circle on your calendars:
Tuesday February 25th, and Wednesday March 26th
Tristan Thompson vs Tyler Hansbrough. It wasn't enough for Psycho T to assault our lovable Canadian. He had to sign with his hometown team. Any time Hansbrough is on the court there is a decent chance blows will be exchanged or at the very least you will get to see a giant man act like an even bigger spaz.
Tuesday December 10th, Saturday March 8th
JR Smith and Metta World Peace are on the same team. I don't think I need to say much more than that. It likely isn't even necessary to attend the games. Just place yourself around the arena and say yes to any party that has the slightest chance of them making an appearance.
Tuesday January 7th
With both Noel and Bynum in suits we will see a great battle of backup centers. Our first chance to see the man a lot of us fell for in the draft process live in person. By this point Nerlens Noel should be back to playing basketball and while I hope Chris Grant made the right decision drafting Bennett, I also hope that Noel can get healthy and have a great career as he seems like a really good guy.
I think it's fair to say that for most of us this season could not come quick enough. I personally cannot wait and think this might be the most excited I've ever been going into a Cavs season.