After a 27-55 season, the Lakers hope to be far more competitive this coming season.
With the addition of rookie power forward Julius Randle (seventh overall pick) and a healthy Kobe Bryant, the Lakers may be able to get through the first four months of their 2014-15 schedule with a winning record.
If so, March may decide if they have any hope for a playoff spot.
Of their 16 games that month, the Lakers are to play nine on the road, and 10 are against teams that advanced to the postseason last year.
The Lakers are scheduled to begin the month at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 1, followed by a three-game road trip against the Charlotte Hornets (March 3), Miami Heat (March 4) and Memphis Grizzlies (March 6).
The team then is set to return home for four straight, starting with the Dallas Mavericks (March 8), the Detroit Pistons (March 10) and the New York Knicks (March 12). After two days off, the Lakers draw the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center (March 15) before a quick trip to face the Golden State Warriors (March 16).
The Lakers then are set to get two days off before hosting the Utah Jazz on March 19, followed by another two days off before drawing the Philadelphia 76ers (March 22).
March is scheduled to wrap up with the Lakers on the road for their longest trip of the season -- five games starting with a back-to-back in Oklahoma City (March 24) and Minnesota (March 25). The Lakers would then continue the trip in Toronto (March 27) and Brooklyn (March 29) before finishing on another back-to-back in Philadelphia (March 30).
In total, the Lakers are to play four times on consecutive nights. They are scheduled to be on national television six times (ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA-TV).
Drawing the Thunder (twice), Hornets, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Warriors and other playoff opponents will be a challenge, but facing squads such as the Sixers (twice), Pistons, Jazz and Timberwolves may help balance out the month.
Even if the Lakers manage to split their 16 games in March, they may struggle to get above the 38-39-win range.
Last season, the 48-win Phoenix Suns finished ninth in the Western Conference. If 49 wins is the mark to make the postseason, the Lakers would need to have at least 40 wins after March, followed by a perfect nine-game April. However, any significant setbacks or injuries could derail the Lakers before they even get to March.
That said, although expectations may not be high for the Lakers this year, health and a little luck could keep them near the playoff bubble heading into the final month of the season.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun