The National Basketball Association reportedly will release the 2016-17 regular-season schedule on Thursday at 5:45 p.m. ET, per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe confirmed the report.

Although the Cleveland Cavaliers are the reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors are coming off a dominant regular season en route to an NBA-record 73 victories. Whether they can challenge that new standard again following the addition of Kevin Durant is one of the campaign’s marquee questions.

So let’s check out all of the important details for this year’s schedule reveal. That’s followed by a closer look at some of the most notable stories to track when the complete slate is announced.

Adding Durant to an already-star-studded roster featuring Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green doesn’t even seem fair. Taking the key pieces from a 73-win squad and putting one of the league’s best players in the mix equates to an embarrassment of riches.

It’s surely going to create an awe-inspiring atmosphere inside Oracle Arena when the 2014 Most Valuable Player makes his first official appearance as a Warriors player. His arrival doesn’t automatically mean the Dubs are going to push toward another wins record, though.

Russell Westbrook

Kyle Wagner and Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight estimated Golden State’s record at 66-16 after signing Durant. It’s a projection based on things such as uncertain depth production and gradual individual decline, but there are also more complex issues such as reversion to the mean and the law of diminishing returns.

Meanwhile, Tim MacMahon of ESPN noted NBA commissioner Adam Silver has openly voiced his displeasure about the formation of “superteams.” He would rather see high-profile free agents choose locations that would level the playing field, though he respects each player’s right to choose:

Just to be absolutely clear, I do not think that’s ideal from the league standpoint. For me, part of it is designing a collective bargaining agreement that encourages the distribution of great players throughout the league. On the other hand, I absolutely respect a player’s right to become a free agent and, in this case, for Kevin Durant to make a decision that he feels is best for him. I have no idea what’s in his mind or heart in terms of how he went about making that decision.

While the overall returns may be more evenly balanced with more legitimate title contenders, business should be just fine with the Warriors loading up. They will be either loved or hated, like the New York Yankees or Duke basketball, and it creates more drama when there’s a clear villain.

Durant’s return to Oklahoma City will be the most intriguing scene of them all. He spoke highly of his time with the Thunder in his official announcement on the Players’ Tribune, but fans rarely respond positively when a superstar of his caliber opts to leave town:

I will miss Oklahoma City, and the role I have had in building this remarkable team. I will forever cherish the relationships within the organization – the friends and teammates that I went to war with on the court for nine years, and all the fans and people of the community. They have always had my back unconditionally, and I cannot be more grateful for what they have meant to my family and to me.

All told, the Warriors’ schedule is likely to feature a plethora of nationally televised games as the league’s media partners attempt to capitalize on their drawing power. And most of those contests will be must-see television for basketball junkies.
The San Antonio Spurs will enter the regular season without Duncan on the roster for the first time since the 1997-98 campaign this fall. The first overall pick out of Wake Forest helped lead the organization to five championships while winning two MVP Awards and tallying 15 All-Star selections.

Few players in the history of sports can match the type of impact he had on a single franchise. The Spurs had no titles in more than two decades of NBA play before he arrived. They proceeded to fill an entire hand with championship rings during his tenure.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press provided emotional comments from longtime San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich after Duncan made his retirement decision official after much speculation:

I can honestly tell you my [“pick anybody in history”] dinner would be with Timmy. And it would be because he’s the most real, consistent, true person that I’ve ever met in my life.

I can be on him in a game and ask him why he’s not rebounding in a relatively stern way and really get on him in front of everybody. And on his way back to the court, he’ll say, “Thanks for the motivation, Pop. Thanks for the support, Pop.” Then he’ll turn away with his eyes up in the air and we’ll both start laughing. And people don’t see those things. But his teammates have and that’s why his teammates love him.

The Spurs made a rock-solid signing to replace Duncan from a basketball perspective with six-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol. In fact, his name pops up on a lot of the same lists that feature the legend he’s replacing, including one provided by Jordan Howenstine of Spurs PR.

It’s even fair to make the argument that 36-year-old Gasol is a sizable upgrade over 40-year-old Duncan, who was only a shell of his former self on the court in his final season. But moving forward without the face of the franchise is about more than raw numbers.

So it will be interesting to see the vibe inside the AT&T Center for that first home game. Furthermore, it’s uncertain how the Spurs would respond if they are handed a difficult schedule in the early going and get off to a slow start without their stalwart to steady the ship and guide the way.

Of course, some of the most hyped games every season are the clashes between the previous season’s finalists. That’s especially true this time around given the fact the Warriors and Cavaliers have faced off for the title two straight times, and another championship battle could be on the horizon.

The futures odds from Odds Shark show Golden State and Cleveland as the clear favorites in their respective conferences, and it’s really not even that close. It’s going to take a substantial upset—or some unfortunate injury setbacks—to prevent a rubber match between the two powerhouses.

The Basketball Predictions Blog took it a step forward, stating a vast majority of teams should already be looking ahead to next offseason:

It’s exactly the type of mindset that likely drove Silver to make his aforementioned comments about not liking the “superteam” concept. Leagues don’t like tanking, but it’s hard to argue against the idea for teams needing more star power to compete with the top squads.

As for the Cavs and Warriors, the league will obviously want their meetings in key spots. Whether it’s an early nationally televised contest to start building interest for the new season or Christmas Day, the games should be a major ratings boon for the NBA.

Courtesy: Bleacher Report


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