The NBA will release the schedule for the 2016-17 regular season late this afternoon, according to reports from around the league. This day in the Timberwolves calendar is usually a resounding “meh”: my post from 52 weeks ago highlighted some stats from the season, but the national TV highlight games were few and far between with just five on ESPN and TNT. That figures to skyrocket this season, but just how big could it go?
One of the NBA’s most marquee days of the regular season is Christmas Day, with five games back-to-back covering almost every inch of the holiday from 11am CT on. The Timberwolves are one of three teams never to play on Christmas, along with the Grizzlies and Hornets. However, if one reads between the lines of this tweet from Darren Wolfson of KSTP, that could change this season, and why not? The Timberwolves are young, exciting, and hired a coach that could give them a built-in rivalry with a Christmas mainstay.
The Chicago Bulls have played on each of the last six Christmases, and even if you don’t think the team will be that good, the star power and intrigue of the roster built around Jimmy Butler and new addition Dwayne Wade (and Rajon Rondo, I guess) make the Bulls unlikely to drop their Christmas slot, in addition to the large TV audience tied to Chicago. A Bulls-Wolves game would be a fun clash of young vs. old, and we’d get to hear all about Tom Thibodeau’s departure for the entire game.
Another less likely possibility? The Los Angeles Lakers. The Wolves and Lakers opened last season with a fun clash on national TV (that the Wolves won, of course), and the two young Western Conference teams have a bevy of young talent, from D’Angelo Russell to Karl-Anthony Towns to Brandon Ingram and Kris Dunn. The Lakers will obviously have a game, having had one every season since 1997, but whether the league will trust this slot to young power rather than a proven playoff team (the last three years have been LeBron’s Heat, the 2014 Thibodeau Bulls and last season’s Clippers) is a question.
A pipe dream? Give us the rematch with the Warriors. The Warriors will almost certainly play Cleveland in a championship rematch, but why not let the Wolves beat them on national TV again? Cleveland just got to do that, the Wolves haven’t gotten to do that since April.
Regardless of who the Wolves play, if they play, they’ll get their own editions of the NBA’s sweet Christmas Day uniforms, which, if the previews from ESPN’s Uni Watch earlier this summer remain the same, would be a great addition to the Wolves’ current uniform situation, if only for one game.
All things considered, it should be the most interesting schedule release day in a few years. When will the Wolves’ rough stretches take place? How many back-to-backs will they have? How often will national TV audiences see just how many people come to Target Center next season? According to reports, we’ll find out today at 4:45pm CT, and I’m looking forward to it.