Can the Warriors, with a completely new coaching staff and solid core in place, under intense pressure -- both internal and external -- improve upon last year's 51-win campaign?
The Warriors are slated to appear in a franchise-record 19 national television broadcasts split among ABC (1), ESPN (9), and TNT (9), the sixth-most out of all NBA teams. (Interestingly, just five of those broadcasts feature the Warriors away from the friendly confines of Oracle Arena.)
Following a November 25 road game at the Heat, fortunately, the breathing gets easier -- with 10 of the next 17 against 2014 lottery teams until the calendar moves to 2015. Standout games among that stretch include Steve Kerr's return to Chicago to face the Bulls on December 6, and home games against the Houston Rockets (Dec. 10) and Oklahoma City Thunder (Dec. 18, TNT).
Most notable on the schedule is a third Christmas matchup in four years with the rival Los Angeles Clippers -- the nightcap of the NBA's annual marquee holiday quintuplet, on TNT -- at Staples Center, the site where the Warriors were eliminated in Game 7 of their testy first-round series last season.
January 2015 could be another ruthless month. Though the Warriors finish off a season-long six-game homestand in the early part of the month, the homestand ends with three consecutive games against 2014 MVP Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City (Jan. 5), Indiana (Jan. 7), and LeBron James and the new-look Cavaliers (Jan. 9, TNT).
The 2014-15 season features four homestands of four games or more, and four road trips of four games or more.
During January, Golden State has home as well as road duels with both the Thunder and Rockets; also, both the Cavaliers and Bulls (Jan. 27), bolstered by the return of 2011 MVP Derrick Rose and the addition of Pau Gasol, make their only visits to Oracle. The Warriors will play on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, at home against Denver on January 19, with tip-off scheduled for 1:00 PM Pacific.
With the NBA experimenting with an extended All-Star Break this season, February makes for a unique month for all teams, but especially the Warriors. After their February 4 home game against the Mavericks (ESPN), the Warriors will have just one home game until March 4.
On February 7, Stephen Curry will make his return to personal stomping ground Madison Square Garden, where he exploded for a career-high 54 points in 2013 and procured a triple-double last season. The first half of the season ends with a tilt at Minnesota on February 11.
After eight days of respite, Golden State resumes play on Feb. 20 (ESPN) against San Antonio (the lone home game in that stretch), before embarking on a season-long six-game road trek -- through Indiana (Feb. 22), Washington (Feb. 24), Cleveland (Feb. 26, TNT), Toronto (Feb. 27), Boston (Mar. 1), and Brooklyn (Mar. 2) -- four games in five nights to end the trip.
After just one stretch of four-games-in-five-nights last season, the Warriors will have four such sets this season. Golden State will also have 19 back-to-backs this season (a number ranking in the middle of the league) -- a possible repercussion of the All-Star Break extension.
The Warriors will have another tough stretch, five games in seven nights in four cities -- beginning March 8 with the lone ABC broadcast, a Sunday home game against the Clippers, with tip-off scheduled for 12:30 PM Pacific -- with a home-road back-to-back (Clippers, Suns) and a road-home back-to-back (Nuggets, Knicks) sandwiching a March 11 road game at Detroit.
The ending push for playoff seeding and home-court advantage will be a intraconference-heavy slate, with Western Conference teams making up 13 of the Warriors' last 15 games. Six of the final nine games will feature 2014 Western Conference playoff teams, with three of those matchups (at Clippers, March 31; Phoenix, April 2; Portland, April 9) on TNT. A four-game homestand is how Golden State will end its regular season, with the Trail Blazers, Timberwolves (Apr. 11), Grizzlies (Apr. 13), and Nuggets (Apr. 15, ESPN) making up the final matchups of the season. The matchup against Denver will be the last regular-season game for Golden State.
If the Warriors start and end the season strong amid very challenging stretches, home-court advantage is definitely a possibility. However, if they struggle during these and other tough times, or drop winnable games at home like they did last season, they could not only be facing being a middling seed in the Western Conference for the third year in a row, Golden State may very well could be on the outside looking in. The West is so deep with excellent teams that that's just the way it goes in today's NBA.
Only time will tell if the Warriors have enough talent, experience, coaching, depth, and most importantly, health, to survive and thrive in this 82-game gauntlet.