With the release of the 2014-15 NBA schedule, the biggest surprise may be the Indiana Pacers avoiding complete NBA purgatory, slotting in a surprisingly high number of national television games following the unfortunate injury to Paul George. While the glamour of Indiana's potential national schedule is gone, including ABC and even Christmas Day opportunities, Indiana will still be on display for eight national games, including three on ESPN and two on TNT.
The NBA's Christmas Day games to no surprise feature fellow irrelevant teams like the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, something Indiana can't bank on having just because of their market, but those teams' matchups; against the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls may have shifted out an opportunity for Indiana to showcase themselves on the NBA's biggest regular season stage.
Of course, worrying too much about Indiana's national placement doesn't ultimately have a major bearing on local fans, but it is unfortunate that fans across the country and around the world won't be allotted as many opportunities due to George's injury, but everyone understands that the league continues to revolve with or without George and that Indiana simply isn't an intriguing option without George, for better or worse.
Indiana's national games will include road fares against the Wizards (November 5) and Miami Heat (November 12) on ESPN. They'll have a trio of games on NBA TV vs. the Denver Nuggets (November 14), at Sacramento Kings (December 5), and the Lakers (January 4) before taking up the spotlight on TNT against the Knicks (January 29). Late season matchups at the Bulls (March 19th, ESPN) and vs. Wizards (April 14) wrap up their current national slate.
Last season, Indiana had an inordinate amount of back-to-backs, which seemed to directly affect their W-L record, especially early in the season when almost every loss came on the second night of a back-to-back. That number is down this year to 17 back-to-backs, but the Pacers will have an early test when they face five of those in the first month alone.
The regular season will tip against the Philadelphia 76ers on October 29th and won't be tested too heavily in the early goings, with eight of their first 13 games at home, including the return of Lance Stephenson to Indianapolis on November 19th as Indiana hosts the Charlotte Hornets for the first time. The Pacers are also spared lengthy road trips this season, with three trips out West, but no trip lasting longer than four games and no more than three against Western teams.
Perhaps the biggest difference in the scheduling for the 2014-15 NBA is the extended All-Star Break. Teams will receive at least eight days off during the break, with Indiana having nine days off from February 11th to February 20th. That will fall in a stretch where the Pacers will play 15 of 20 games at home from January 27th through March 16th.
While Indiana's schedule won't have the same glamour had they been at full strength in an exciting Central Division battle, they won't be without notable games. The Pacers will still have their four regular season matchups with Chicago and Cleveland Cavaliers, including first games on November 15th (at Chicago) and November 29th (at Cleveland). The Bulls will make their first trip to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 29th as LeBron James and the Cavs make their first of two visits on February 6th. Danny Granger will make his return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse with the Heat on New Year's Eve.
What stands out to you about Indiana's 2014-15 schedule? Predictions? Concerns? Excitement? Share your opinions in the comments.