For the first time tonight, I studied the Clips' season schedule.  You know, a full geeked-out examination of your team's schedule where you stare at those pixel blocks until you start seeing the Sunday crossword puzzle answers in the open dates. 

Every NBA team plays the opponents in its division four times respectively (two home, two road).  It plays the 15 teams outside its conference twice (home & home).  The imbalance in a squad's schedule comes with the remaining ten teams in its conference: six of those teams will be played, like division rivals, four times.  But your team will face the remaining four teams in its conference only three times each.

  • This season, the Clippers will host Dallas and Minnesota only once at home.  It's reasonable to conclude that drawing Dallas only three times is a break for the Clippers - though it would be more so if two of those three games were at Staples.  But the combo is still a net plus because the T-Wolves aren't nearly as bad as the Mavs are good.

  • The Clippers will visit Denver and Memphis only once.  All things considered, this isn't such a bad draw.  Memphis was 30-11 at home last season and Denver was 26-15.  Plus, the barbecue in Memphis is vastly overrated and the city isn't nearly as charming at those John Grisham screen adaptations make it out to be.  In contrast, the Lakers visit Portland only once - great city with a shitty franchise. 

    The most desirable NBA road cities [highest cool city/crappy team ratio]:

    (1) Portland
    (2) New York
    (3) Seattle
    (4) Bay Area
    (5) Minneapolis [insane climate notwithstanding]

  • This quirk is probably worth at least one win over the course of the NBA season.   To better understand, add a combo platter of Dallas, Denver, Memphis and Minnesota and take out games against Portland, NOOCH, Seattle and San Antonio.  Which four games would you rather have on the schedule?  

  • The Clippers have a seven game road swing at the beginning of February, including a pair of back-to-backs [@NY, @CLE] and [@IND, @DET].  They also have two six-game road trips, including a mid-March six-games-in-eight-days slog in which they'll do San Antonio-Houston back-to-back, and Chicago-Milwaukee back-to-back. 

  • As I'm certain you've noticed, the Clippers play five of their first six at Staples, so they can't afford any early season throat clearing.  They close with three of their final four at home, with a visit to Phoenix on the penultimate day of the regular season before returning home to close out against NOOCH.  

  • The best "get fat" stretch of the schedule is a nineteen day period that comprises nine games. 

    Jan 13: CLEVELAND
    Jan 15: at Golden State
    Jan 17: GOLDEN STATE
    Jan 20: MEMPHIS
    Jan 23: MILWAUKEE
    Jan 25: NEW JERSEY
    Jan 27: MINNESOTA
    Jan 28: at Seattle
    Jan 31: CHICAGO

    If you want to extend it even farther, the three road games preceding this string are at Atlanta, New Orleans and Minnesota.  The thing about a "get fat" stretch is that a team can't drop games.  It's easy to do a Texas Triangle trip and shrug your shoulders when you go 1-2, but if the Clippers can't run off seven or eight of nine over this period, then they aren't an elite NBA team.

I've been asked to offer predictions about the season, specifically the number of Clipper wins, but I'm always reluctant.  There are so many variables in a sports season that are impossible to grasp, injuries most prominent among them.  But it's a reasonable question, so let's frame it in terms of expectation:

Any fewer than last season's 47 wins would be devastating.  And, if you want to consider that the Clippers effectively threw a game or two, we're really setting the bar at 50 games.    

Can the Clippers do it?  Can they really win two out of every three games?  That's a lot of wins on the road, a lot of wins over really good basketball teams.  Only six teams won fifty games or more last season - none of whom won fewer than thirty games at home. 

For all the Tetris you play with that magnet schedule on the fridge, the formula is basically what it has been since the NBA expanded to an 82 game schedule:  

Win at least 30 home games, and go no worse than .500 on the road.