Sacramento’s bubble schedule was released Friday night, and frankly, I was pleased with the results. The Kings schedule is as follows:
July 31 – San Antonio Spurs
August 2 – Orlando Magic
August 4 – Dallas Mavericks
August 6 – New Orleans Pelicans
August 7 – Brooklyn Nets
August 9 – Houston Rockets
August 11 – New Orleans Pelicans
August 13 – Los Angeles Lakers
The Kings will play five of their eight games against teams with losing records. They will only play one game against a team in the top-five of either conference. That game is their final matchup, and it comes against a Lakers team that will almost certainly have nothing to gain by playing hard.
Overall, the Kings have the eighth easiest schedule of the 22 teams in the bubble. I’ll take it.
But wait. Let me look at the back-to-backs before I let myself be happy. After all, that’s where the league screws the Kings year after year.*
*This is mostly a joke. However, it is a fact that the Kings have played more back-to-backs than the league average for five straight years, including league-highs in both 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Thankfully, the league announced all teams will play exactly one back-to-back set. Great. It’s all fair then. Every team has to play a game on zero days’ rest, and every team will get one opponent that has to play on zero days’ rest.
Right? RIGHT?! Wrong.
As it turns out, the Kings are one of nine teams that does not face an opponent on their second day of a back-to-back. Sacramento’s immediate competition for a play-in spot against the Memphis Grizzlies fared better. The Pelicans get one of those rest-day advantages, and the Trail Blazers get two.
The Pelicans also get a second rest-day advantage since they are playing on opening night. Their positioning as a league showcase team gives them a buffer day to build into their eight-game schedule somewhere, when most teams are playing every other day.
So, who do the Pelicans play when they are coming off that luxurious two-day break? The Sacramento Kings, of course.
Remember all that chatter about how the schedule will be a reflection of what it was going to be normally? That each team would just play their next eight games against other bubble teams in the same order, or at least as close to it as possible?
Well, that would mean the Pelicans would be playing the Kings in their first game. Remember when the league shut down literally seconds before the two teams were set to face off in March? Forget all of that. The NBA can’t waste Zion Williamson’s precious first game back on the Kings. Who would even watch?
At least that is a rare occurrence. All teams have 100+ days of rest for their first game back. 77 other games will be played, and only six of those come with one team on multiple days’ rest.
Six games. How many of those games do you think come against the Kings? Really, I want you to guess.
The correct answer is HALF. Three of the six games where a team plays a game on multiple days’ rest, the team that gets the short end of the stick is your Sacramento Kings.
The San Antonio Spurs, the Phoenix Suns, and the Denver Nuggets have to face one game against a team that is coming off multiple days’ rest in the return-to-play period. The Kings have to face three different teams in that scenario. No other team is in that scenario even once.
All in all, the Kings have easily the most unfavorably timed schedule in the league. They play four of their eight games with a rest disadvantage, and play zero with a rest advantage.
For comparison, the Blazers and Pelicans both play two games with a rest advantage, and only one game with a rest disadvantage.
Wake up people, the fix is in.*
*Again, I’m kind of kidding. But also, no I’m not.