Lakers schedule 2013: Challenges come early and often for Los Angeles

USA TODAY Sports

From the season opener at Staples Center to the Grammy road trip, the Lakers are looking at a challenging schedule in 2013-14.

This season for the Los Angeles Lakers begins like few others have, with suppressed expectations and an eye towards the future. Still, with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash still around, this team might actually be pretty entertaining.

So while the 2013-14 season opens with talk of Kobe's surgically repaired Achilles instead of his quest for a sixth championship, this Lakers team isn't off the map. There's still Hollywood, there's still Kobe, and we shouldn't discount what a more stable environment could do for the future Hall of Fame inductees.

With an absolute gauntlet to tip-off the season -- at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Clippers, on the road against the Golden State Warriors and back home for the San Antonio Spurs -- the league hasn't done L.A. many favors. But considering the worst-case scenario is a Nick Young shot party and lottery odds in the highly regarded 2014 draft, this Lakers season can't be any weirder than the last.

Five games to watch

Oct. 29 vs. Clippers -- A neat little reminder of the seismic shift in L.A. basketball supremacy, the Lakers open the season against Chris Paul and company. But more importantly, this game stands as the first benchmark in Kobe's return from Achilles surgery -- if he doesn't come back for Game 1, when will he?

Dec. 25 vs. Heat -- Headlining ABC's Christmas Day slate, the Lakers host LeBron James and the two-time defending champions in the evening. It's one of five games scheduled by the league on a holiday full of joy, celebration and basketball.

Jan. 14 vs. Cavaliers -- After abruptly firing Mike Brown at the beginning of the 2012-13 season, he's rebounded nicely by returning to the up-and-coming Cavs. We also might see Andrew Bynum and Earl Clark returning to L.A., though who knows if the former will actually be playing. Beyond that, there aren't a whole lot of competitive implications here, but who's going to argue against Kobe vs. Kyrie?

Feb. 19 vs. Rockets -- Dwight Howard's first visit to Staples Center in a Rockets uniform presumably won't be met with cheerful applause. It's actually the third time these two teams tip-off next season, including an early-season contest on Nov. 7, but the first two matchups are both in Houston.

March 25 vs. Knicks -- The return of Metta World Peace comes weeks before the end of the season. Never discount the possibility of something interesting happening when MWP is around.

Tough tests

The Lakers have 19 back-to-back contests this season, beginning with the first two games of the season against the Clippers and Warriors. Some of those scenarios should be especially difficult, including consecutive road games against Indiana and Memphis on Feb. 25-26, and a similar situation a month later with OKC and San Antonio.

Winning two road games in two days against two title contenders is a lot to ask, but the Lakers will face that challenge on multiple instances in 2013-14. The Grammy road trip, which keeps L.A. on the road for two weeks in January, will also feature some tough matchups, including a four-game stretch against Chicago, Miami, Orlando and New York.

Easiest stretches

Things ease up for the Lakers in late November following a few tough weeks to begin the season. From Nov. 24 to Dec. 10, the team will play eight games, including three at home against Toronto, Phoenix and Sacramento, all likely lottery teams.

With a deep Western Conference and an emerging middle class of contenders in the East, particularly easy stretches are rare for L.A. At one point next year, the team will play a four-game stretch against Charlotte, Minnesota, Cleveland and Philadelphia, but that's followed up by games against Chicago, Utah, OKC and Houston.

Important schedule facts

Back-to-backs: 19

Season opener: Oct. 29 vs. Clippers

Home opener: Oct. 29 vs. Clippers

Longest road trip: 7 games (Jan. 15-26)

Longest homestand: 6 games (Feb. 9-23)

October
Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday, October 29 2013 10:30 PM EDT coverage
@ Golden State Wednesday, October 30 2013 10:30 PM EDT coverage
November
San Antonio Friday, November 01 2013 10:30 PM EDT coverage
Atlanta Sunday, November 03 2013 9:30 PM EST coverage
@ Dallas Tuesday, November 05 2013 8:30 PM EST coverage
@ Houston Thursday, November 07 2013 9:30 PM EST coverage
@ New Orleans Friday, November 08 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Minnesota Sunday, November 10 2013 9:30 PM EST coverage
New Orleans Tuesday, November 12 2013 10:30 PM EST coverage
@ Denver Wednesday, November 13 2013 9:00 PM EST coverage
Memphis Friday, November 15 2013 10:30 PM EST coverage
Detroit Sunday, November 17 2013 9:30 PM EST coverage
Golden State Friday, November 22 2013 10:30 PM EST coverage
Sacramento Sunday, November 24 2013 9:30 PM EST coverage
@ Washington Tuesday, November 26 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Brooklyn Wednesday, November 27 2013 7:30 PM EST coverage
@ Detroit Friday, November 29 2013 7:30 PM EST coverage
December
Portland Sunday, December 01 2013 9:30 PM EST coverage
@ Sacramento Friday, December 06 2013 10:00 PM EST coverage
Toronto Sunday, December 08 2013 9:30 PM EST coverage
Phoenix Tuesday, December 10 2013 10:30 PM EST coverage
@ Oklahoma City Friday, December 13 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Charlotte Saturday, December 14 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Atlanta Monday, December 16 2013 7:30 PM EST coverage
@ Memphis Tuesday, December 17 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Minnesota Friday, December 20 2013 10:30 PM EST coverage
@ Golden State Saturday, December 21 2013 10:30 PM EST coverage
@ Phoenix Monday, December 23 2013 9:00 PM EST coverage
Miami Wednesday, December 25 2013 5:00 PM EST coverage
@ Utah Friday, December 27 2013 9:00 PM EST coverage
Philadelphia Sunday, December 29 2013 9:30 PM EST coverage
Milwaukee Tuesday, December 31 2013 10:30 PM EST coverage
January
Utah Friday, January 03 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
Denver Sunday, January 05 2014 9:30 PM EST coverage
@ Dallas Tuesday, January 07 2014 8:30 PM EST coverage
@ Houston Wednesday, January 08 2014 9:30 PM EST coverage
@ Los Angeles Clippers Friday, January 10 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
Cleveland Tuesday, January 14 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
@ Phoenix Wednesday, January 15 2014 9:00 PM EST coverage
@ Boston Friday, January 17 2014 7:30 PM EST coverage
@ Toronto Sunday, January 19 2014 1:00 PM EST coverage
@ Chicago Monday, January 20 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Miami Thursday, January 23 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Orlando Friday, January 24 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ New York Sunday, January 26 2014 3:30 PM EST coverage
Indiana Tuesday, January 28 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
Charlotte Friday, January 31 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
February
@ Minnesota Tuesday, February 04 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Cleveland Wednesday, February 05 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Philadelphia Friday, February 07 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
Chicago Sunday, February 09 2014 3:30 PM EST coverage
Utah Tuesday, February 11 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
Oklahoma City Thursday, February 13 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
Houston Wednesday, February 19 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
Boston Friday, February 21 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
Brooklyn Sunday, February 23 2014 9:00 PM EST coverage
@ Indiana Tuesday, February 25 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Memphis Wednesday, February 26 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
Sacramento Friday, February 28 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
March
@ Portland Monday, March 03 2014 10:00 PM EST coverage
New Orleans Tuesday, March 04 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
Los Angeles Clippers Thursday, March 06 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
@ Denver Friday, March 07 2014 9:00 PM EST coverage
Oklahoma City Sunday, March 09 2014 3:30 PM EDT coverage
@ Oklahoma City Thursday, March 13 2014 9:30 PM EDT coverage
@ San Antonio Friday, March 14 2014 8:30 PM EDT coverage
San Antonio Wednesday, March 19 2014 10:30 PM EDT coverage
Washington Friday, March 21 2014 10:30 PM EDT coverage
Orlando Sunday, March 23 2014 9:30 PM EDT coverage
New York Tuesday, March 25 2014 10:30 PM EDT coverage
@ Milwaukee Thursday, March 27 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Minnesota Friday, March 28 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
Phoenix Sunday, March 30 2014 9:30 PM EDT coverage
April
Portland Tuesday, April 01 2014 10:30 PM EDT coverage
@ Sacramento Wednesday, April 02 2014 10:00 PM EDT coverage
Dallas Friday, April 04 2014 10:30 PM EDT coverage
@ Los Angeles Clippers Sunday, April 06 2014 3:30 PM EDT coverage
Houston Tuesday, April 08 2014 10:30 PM EDT coverage
Golden State Friday, April 11 2014 10:30 PM EDT coverage
Memphis Sunday, April 13 2014 9:30 PM EDT coverage
@ Utah Monday, April 14 2014 9:00 PM EDT coverage
@ San Antonio Wednesday, April 16 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
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