The Indiana Pacers will get a quick measure of where they stand in the Eastern Conference with four of their first five games against teams from the East with playoff expectations heading into the season. Yeah, I know the New York Knicks are among those four teams, but they're the Knicks and their expectations will be inflated as usual.
More intriguing will be the games to open the season at Atlanta and then at the Fieldhouse against Miami. Both teams should be locks for the playoffs but also teams that the Pacers aspire to compete with in the standings. The timing is tough since the Pacers will be incorporating several new faces, but regardless the matchups with the Hawks and Heat will provide a baseline measure for the season.
Here are a few other initial thoughts on the schedule:
- First, don't miss Bruno's thoughts on the schedule and the dates he's circling.
- OCT 30 vs. Miami Heat:Unless he gets hurt in Miami's home opener, Jermaine O'Neal should be fit, fresh and feisty for the Heat in the Fieldhouse opener. No doubt he's feeling good this summer, really working hard and expecting his play to return to its former glory...or at least talking about it.
- NOV 13 vs. Boston Celtics:The C's are always a big show but even more so this year with Rasheed Wallaceand Marquis Daniels (he hopes) joining the troupe. Plus, as ThirtyOne pointed out in a comment, the Indianapolis Colts play the New England Patriots the next night at Lucas Oil Stadium. Last year both games were on the same day so this year we can enjoy a full weekend with two nights of Boston fans livening up the city. With the Colts-Pats slated for NBC's Sunday night game, both teams will have plenty of fans lubed up at LOS.
- NOV 20 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron Jamesand company make their first visit to the Fieldhouse. Hope it's as exciting as this game last year.
- NOV 22 at Charlotte Bobcats:May feel like a home game for the Pacers with Tyler Hansbrough returning to Carolina to take on the Bobcats.
- NOV 30-DEC 5:First west coast roadie with games at Goldend State, Sacramento, Utah and L.A. Clippers. Nice to get the first one out of the way early and not too painful, but that means the second trip in March will be brutal having to play the Lakers, Portland, Denver and Phoenix in a five day span.
- DEC 9 vs. Portland Trailblazers: Greg Oden and the Blazers make their annual visit to the Fieldhouse. Sure would be nice to see Oden healthy and running up and down the floor for 25-30 minutes. For some reason, I can't get my mind to consider that a reasonable option despite what my heart says. Hopefully GO finds some success this year.
Wow, all of those interesting subplots in just the first six weeks of the schedule. The start of the season may not be as demanding as last year but it should certainly be entertaining. We should have a pretty good idea what kind of season the Pacers are headed for by Christmas which will determine which games we should focus on for the rest of the season. Well, except for January 27th when Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers come to town for their only visit. Get the bright pink highlighter out for that one, because with Ronnie Artest in the mix you won't want to miss it.