Key NBA dates for former Notre Dame standouts

IRISH STEW

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

The annual release of the NBA schedule in mid-August held even more intrigue this summer for Notre Dame men’s basketball fans.

Four former Irish head to NBA training camps next month with hopes of earning roster spots. Two players – Pat Connaughton and Jerian Grant – are guaranteed to spend their second seasons with their respective teams as either main rotation players (Grant) or on the fringe of the rotation (Connaughton). Two others – power forward Zach Auguste and guard Demetrius Jackson – enter their rookie seasons with a little uncertainty.

Auguste signed a free agent deal in late August with the Los Angeles Lakers. A second-round pick in June, Jackson is part of a crowded backcourt with the Boston Celtics.

Following are some key NBA regular-season dates for each of the four. Players are listed alphabetically.

ZACH AUGUSTE (Rookie, PF, Los Angeles Lakers)

• Wednesday, Oct. 26 vs. Houston Rockets

The home and season-opener for Auguste and the Lakers in Year One AK (After Kobe).

• Sunday, Nov. 20 vs. Chicago Bulls

A Bulls-Lakers matchup reunites Auguste and Grant, whom he considered a mentor during his final two years at Notre Dame.

• Wednesday, Nov. 30 at Chicago Bulls

The road trip/rematch with Chicago takes Auguste the closest he’ll get to the Notre Dame campus, some 100 miles away at United Center.

• Friday, Dec. 16 at Philadelphia

Aguste makes his first visit to Wells Fargo Center, the arena where he played his last collegiate game against North Carolina in the 2016 NCAA Tournament East Regional championship on Easter Sunday.

• Thursday, Jan. 5 at Portland Trail Blazers

Auguste’s first meeting with another of his former college teammates/mentors in Connaughton, a fellow Massachusetts native.

• Friday, Feb. 3 at Boston Celtics

-Auguste is scheduled to make his first return trip to his home area (he’s a Marlborough, Mass.) native as a pro. Auguste never lost (3-0) in Boston as a collegiate.

PAT CONNAUGHTON (Second year, SG/SF, Portland Trail Blazers)

• Tuesday, Oct. 25 vs. Utah Jazz

The season opener is big for the second-year guard, who plans to be more of a rotation player this year after spending much of his first season at the end of the bench. The first game of the year may offer a clue as to how big of a role Connaughton will play the second time around.

• Tuesday, Nov. 15 vs. Chicago Bulls

The first of two regular-season meetings between the Blazers and Bulls reunites former Irish captains Connaughton and Grant, who led the Irish in 2015 to the first of their two-straight Elite Eights. Connaughton makes the return trip to Chicago on Monday, Dec. 5.

• Saturday, Dec. 10 at Indiana Pacers

Connaughton’s lone return trip to the state where he played college basketball.

• Thursday, Jan 5 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Former teammates Auguste and Connaughton reunite for the first time as pros – will Connaughton pick up the dinner check?

• Saturday, Jan. 21 at Boston Celtics

Connaughton’s only return trip to his hometown likely already as the TD Garden ticket office on notice – Connaughton’s extensive family likely will be the market for a few THOUSAND tickets. No joke.

JERIAN GRANT (Second year, PG, Chicago Bulls)

• Thursday, Oct. 27 vs. Boston Celtics

The home and season opener for the Bulls, Grant’s second team in as many years. He may find himself matched against former Irish backcourt mate Demetrius Jackson.

• Friday, Nov. 4 vs. New York Knicks

The United Center return of native son Derrick Rose also is big for Grant after the Knicks gave up on him after only one season in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense. Grant’s second game against his former team, and his first trip back to Madison Square Garden, is Thursday, Jan. 12.

Thursday, Nov. 15 at Indiana Pacers

Will Grant’s first return trip to the state where he played his college ball be as good as the last one? He went for 18 points, six assists, six rebounds and two steals in 38 minutes in the 2015-16 season finale. It was his last game as a Knick.

• Friday, Nov. 26 at Philadelphia 76ers

Chicago’s six-game, 10-day “circus trip” closes with Grant going against his younger brother, Jerami, in his third year with the Sixers.

• Monday, Jan. 9 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Grant’s first game against his closest friend, former Indiana University guard Victor Oladipo, who also was traded in the offseason (from Orlando).

• Tuesday, Jan. 10 at Washington Wizards

Grant returns to the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area against the team that selected him in the first round of the 2015 draft.

DEMETRIUS JACKSON (Rookie, PG, Boston Celtics)

• Thursday, Oct. 27 at Chicago Bulls

Jackson’s regular-season NBA journey commences in the same building where he played the 2013 McDonald’s All-American game. He’ll face Grant and former Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. Jackson will wear Rondo’s old number in Boston (No. 9) this season.

• Saturday, Nov. 12 at Indiana Pacers

A Hoosier native, Jackson makes the first of two return trips to his home state as an NBA rookie. The Celtics also visit Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday, Dec. 22.

• Saturday, Dec. 3 at Philadelphia 76ers

Jackson makes his first visit back to Wells Fargo Center, where he played his final collegiate game in the NCAA tournament last March. Afterward, Jackson said he would take some time to weigh the decision of returning for his senior year or turning pro. Less than 48 hours later, he was gone.

• Wednesday, Dec. 7 at Orlando Magic

Last spring when Jackson and his former AAU coach, Rod Creech, attended a Magic game against the Detroit Pistons at Amway Center, it was the first time he had ever seen an NBA game in person. On this night, he returns to the arena for the first time as pro.

Former Notre Dame standout Pat Connaughton plans to have more of an impact during his second NBA season with the Portland Trail Blazers.AP File Photo/ERIK VERDUZCO