Although the first season of the Boston Celtics' rebuilding stage has yet to begin, the newly-released NBA schedule serves as a blatant reminder that the KG and Pierce era has ended.
The 1,230-game schedule, announced Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET, glaringly reveals how competitive the league considers Boston's current squad. For starters, their opening game will be against the Toronto Raptors. That doesn't exactly scream “record TV ratings.”
The Celtics previously participated in the opening game for the entire league four of the last five years, all against LeBron James (vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008 and 2009, vs. the Miami Heat in 2010 and 2012).
Last season's Celtics-Heat matchup in South Beach drew 5.37 million viewers. Two years prior, when the same two squads tipped off in Boston, they set a record with 7.348 million.
Now the Heat will kick things off against the Chicago Bulls, likely garnering more huge numbers while Brad Stevens' young team fights what will surely be an ugly battle against Canada's only professional hoops franchise.
As for the other marquee matchups, the Celtics get a rare snuff from the invite list. Of the five games scheduled on Christmas Day, Boston will participate in none.
Here's the Christmas run-down (all times eastern):
Chicago Bulls at Brooklyn Nets, 12 p.m. (ESPN)
Oklahoma City Thunder at New York Knicks, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers, 5 p.m. (ABC)
Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
The Celtics will also get Thanksgiving (November 28) and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January 20) off. They have only three games featured on ESPN's telecast schedule, and three games slotted on NBATV (in contrast, the Lakers, Heat and Knicks have 25 scheduled appearances on TNT, ESPN and ABC national telecasts, followed by the Thunder and Bulls with 24, the Clippers with 21 and the Rockets with 20).
Unfortunately for Boston, floor general and undisputed team leader Rajon Rondo loves the limelight of primetime and marquee games. He'll obviously have to make some magic happen to get the Celtics back into it.
In what will probably be the most emotional home game of the season, Boston welcomes KG and Pierce as Brooklyn Nets for the first time on January 26 (ESPN). The TD Garden will likely be as loud as ever when their former stars are introduced.
The crowd might be a little more torn when Doc Rivers returns on December 11, bringing along his strong Los Angeles Clippers team. Expect more than a few boo-birds to target the former nine-year Celtics coach, who wanted no part of Boston's current rebuilding stage. Even more wild, this game comes at the tail end of back-to-back games, which starts with Boston visiting Brooklyn. Talk about an emotional couple of nights.
The Celtics will see the Heat, who eliminated them in Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, on Saturday, November 9 in South Beach. They visit the New York Knicks, their superiors this past postseason in six opening-round games, on December 8.
Overall, the schedule seems quite generous for the Celts. They have two lengthy homestands, one in mid-December and the other starting in late February. As for road trips, which have haunted Boston in the past), the two longest periods will be five games in early January and a four-game west-coast trip starting February 19.
By then, it will be clear whether Boston is once again a playoff contender, or rather a draft lottery hopeful. The NBA seems to have already made its prediction.