ATLANTA–11Alive Sports offers a whimsical breakdown of the Atlanta Hawks' schedule for the 2018-19 season, which launches on the big stage of Madison Square Garden (Oct. 17 vs. the Knicks).
From a league perspective, the Opening Night slate of games (Oct. 16) feature Philadelphia at Boston ... and Oklahoma City at Golden State.
The Hawks have had a busy offseason, hiring a new head coach (Lloyd Pierce), drafting the point guard of the future (Trae Young), trading the former face of the franchise (Dennis Schroder) and adding three first-round draft picks (Young, Kevin Huerter, Omari Spellman).
Oh, and the franchise also stockpiled a slew of future draft picks ... which partly explains why Carmelo Anthony was property of the Hawks for roughly two weeks.
1. Let's start with the obvious: LeBron James and the Lakers (still an odd thing to write) will invade Philips Arena just once this season (barring an NBA Finals clash–insert joke here), facing the Hawks on Feb. 12 (Tuesday night).
2. The Hawks will be the NBA's last team to play a home game (Oct. 24 vs. Dallas), essentially buying the massive renovation of Philips Arena one more week of finishing touches/final preparations.
(Note: Atlanta will play its exhibition home games at Georgia Tech's McCamish Pavilion.)
3. The NBA schedule-maker clearly has a sense of humor. The Hawks-Mavericks home opener immediately affords Atlanta fans the opportunity to regret letting Luka Doncic go to Dallas (draft day), via trade.
Or, maybe fellow rookie Trae Young (the other principal of that major trade) will light Dallas up for 40 points that night.
Either way, it makes for good theater.
4. The Hawks' longest road trip (seven games from Jan. 23-Feb. 4) curiously involves only five stops in Western Conference markets: Portland, Los Angeles (Clippers), Sacramento, Utah and Phoenix.
5. Along those lines, the Hawks' highest-profile road trip covers six days in mid-November–Lakers (Nov. 11), Warriors (Nov. 13), Nuggets (Nov. 15) and Pacers (Nov. 17).
6. Atlanta will enjoy blocks of multiple home games for the first two months. In fact, the first standalone home outing won't occur until Dec. 18 (vs. Washington).
7. Apparently, the NBA schedule-maker wants me home for the holidays. On Dec. 23, two days before Christmas, the Hawks will play in Detroit–my beloved hometown.
The problem here: Hawks-Pistons has a start time of 4 p.m. ... meaning it'll be difficult (but hardly impossible) for Michiganders to experience a Lions home game (1 p.m. vs. Minnesota) and Pistons home outing on the same day.
8. It's hardly a surprise that Atlanta (24-58 last year) won't be playing on Christmas Day, a time typically reserved for the NBA's glitterati franchises.
9. Speaking of traditions ... the Hawks will once again play on MLK Day (Jan. 21), welcoming the Magic to Atlanta.
The lone knock: This matinee start caps a four-game home stand with the Bucks (Jan. 13), Thunder (Jan. 15), Celtics (Jan. 19) and Magic.
10. If you care about homecomings ... former Hawks head coach/president Mike Budenholzer will return to Atlanta on Jan. 13.
Prediction: Budenholzer will transform the Bucks into a 50-win club. At minimum, the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
11. Go ahead and bet the farm on the Hawks touting their popular 'Tinder Night' promotion on Valentine's Day against the Knicks.
Full disclosure: During my carefree bachelor days, I once had a Tinder account ... but not one right-swipe.
(Not sure if that's a good or bad thing.)
12. The season's longest home stand (Feb. 7-23) comes with a major caveat: The All-Star break of Feb. 15-20 occupies a good chunk of this period.
The seven opponents for this stretch: Raptors (Feb. 7), Hornets (Feb. 9), Magic (Feb. 10), Lakers (Feb. 12), Knicks (Feb. 14), Pistons (Feb. 22) and Suns (Feb. 23).
13. The Hawks have just one home-and-home this season, hosting the Bulls on March 1 and then playing at Chicago two days later.
Personally, I wish the NBA invoked more home-and-homes into the master schedule, similar to the 1980s; but for whatever reason, this component has become nearly extinct.