Writer: Caleb Apkan
h/t SB Nation
Time is flying, and the NBA season is less than a month away. If you’re hungry enough for games that you’ll watch preseason, there’s only twelve days of waiting. With that, it’s time to dive into the upcoming season’s schedule and look at the most intriguing matchups each month.
Tuesday, October 17th
Celtics at Cavaliers
Opening night is always a big deal in the league, but this game seems to have a bit more weight to it following a crazy offseason. Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas have switched teams following Irving’s trade request from Cleveland. Irving’s reasoning for the request has been debated, and Kyrie himself has only confused fans further when trying to explain why he chose to leave his great situation in The Land, but many point to him no longer wanting to be Robin to LeBron’s Batman. Will Kyrie show out to prove he can be the leader? Will LeBron take offense and try to destroy his former partner? You’ll just have to watch and find out.
Honorable Mentions: Pelicans at Kings (Oct. 17; Cousins’ return to Sacramento), rookie and new team first games
Thursday, November 16th
Warriors at Celtics
Speaking of Kyrie, expectations are rather high for him and his Celtics. Many expect Boston to be in the mix for a Finals appearance at the least, and a major test will be given on their home floor early in the year. The juggernaut Warriors will come to T.D. Garden in mid-November, for a matchup that could possibly be seen in the summertime. The key will be if Boston can contain Golden State’s offensive firepower, but Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Gordon Hayward dueling at their respective positions makes this an interesting matchup to watch whether the C’s are able to do so or not.
Honorable Mentions: Rockets at Knicks (Nov. 1; Carmelo returns to the Garden?), Warriors at Spurs (Nov. 2; WCF rematch), Warriors at Thunder (Nov. 22, KD back in OKC)
Monday December 25th
Cavaliers at Warriors
Many see Christmas Day as the official start of the NBA season, with a marathon of marquee matchups highlighting the league’s best early on in the year. Like an holiday event, NBA Christmas Day has a few traditions: the Lakers almost always are playing, as are the Knicks, and rivalry games tend to take place as well, which is the case for the newest holiday hoops staple: a rematch of the Finals between the Warriors and the Cavaliers. There’s not much else to say besides that, but with new faces in both places, this matchup is once again as intriguing as ever, and in front of the amazing Oracle Arena crowd, fans could be in for a classic.
Honorable Mentions: Wizards at Celtics (Dec. 25; possible playoff preview), Rockets at Thunder (Dec 25; Harden vs Westbrook)
Monday, January 15th
Rockets at Clippers
One of the best parts of a new NBA season is seeing a player who moved in the offseason don their new team’s jerseys for the first time, and what’s usually even better is seeing that player return to their old stomping grounds. This is especially the case for stars like Chris Paul, who will have to wait until the calendar turns to 2018 before he can go against his old teammates on the Clippers. The LA franchise has been surprisingly optimistic about the team’s future despite Paul’s exit, but you know fans can’t be too happy about arguably their biggest talent jumping ship. Expect the boos to flow all game long.
Honorable Mentions: Warriors at Cavaliers (Jan. 15, Finals rematch pt. 2), Cavaliers at Spurs (Jan. 23; LeBron vs. Kawhi)
Friday, February 9th
Timberwolves at Bulls
A recent NBA trend has seen the flipside of the player movement reaction: fans honoring a player who left against their own will. Jimmy Butler seems to fit this category perfectly, as the All-Star was always loyal to the team that drafted him, despite constantly appearing in trade rumors, ultimately actually leaving during the lottery of the 2018 draft. Chicago fans are likely to show Butler lots of love when he makes his return to United Center just before the All-Star break, but it seems unlikely Butler will take it easy on his old home. When a team handles a situation like the Bulls did Butler’s, a revenge game is usually on hand when the two sides meet again.
Honorable Mentions: Wizards at Cavaliers (Feb. 22, possible playoff preview), All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles
Sunday, March 11th
Cavaliers at Lakers
Other than whether or not Carmelo Anthony is being traded or anything weird Kevin Durant is doing, the biggest NBA offseason storyline seemed to be about the next offseason and whether the L.A. Lakers would return to prominence by recruiting a superstar: sometimes this rumored star was Paul George, but many insiders have brought LeBron James’ name into the mix. Just this week, James practiced at UCLA with teammate Kevin Love while his wife, Savannah, seemed to scout an LA high school, possibly for their son LeBron Jr., who will soon be entering ninth grade. If LeBron is indeed headed for L.A., this March 11th game will be his last at Staples Center as a visitor. Not only will it be a great opportunity to sum up the rumors that will likely continue to develop during the season, but it will also be a chance to see arguably the league’s best player on one of the league’s most interesting stages, surrounded by stars from all places and facing one of the most hyped rookie players ever, Lonzo Ball.
P.S. Don’t be shocked if ESPN has a “Lavar Cam” for this and other big Laker games
Honorable Mentions: Celtics at Jazz (Mar. 28; Hayward heads to Utah), Raptors at Cavaliers (Mar. 21; playoff rematch)
Tuesday, April 3rd
Thunder at Warriors
April is basically the dead week of basketball, everyone is really just preparing for the next big event in the NBA playoffs and other than playing for some playoff seeding, not much else seems to matter. A matchup where Kevin Durant has to play his former team not too long before he may see them again where the game really matters should be enough to pull fans to their TVs before the road to the Finals begins.
Honorable Mentions: Rockets at Spurs (Apr. 1st; rivalry game and possible playoff matchup), any games that could be the last for retiring players