As mid-August approaches, the NFL season is nearly in full swing, but the NBA hoped to avert sports fans’ eyes with the release of their schedule on August 12. After one of the craziest offseasons in recent memory, rivalries, players living up to their massive contracts, a new era of duos, and finally bask in an NBA season with complete parity.
Naturally, high-profile games such as those that are nationally televised, have many superstars, or maybe a homecoming is among the most interesting. This year features just that, with plenty of up- and coming teams hoping to be in the playoff mix. In addition, fans will get to see Russell Westbrook, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis, Paul George, Kemba Walker, Mike Conley, and Kyrie Irving all play against their former teams. Here are some games to circle on your calendar:
New Orleans Pelicans at Toronto Raptors – October 22 (TNT)
To start off the 2019-20 season with a bang, the Zion Williamson led Pelicans will face a stiff test as they head to the North to face the now Kawhi-less defending champion Raptors. Of course, the Raptors will receive their championship rings, and what better way to than on the night Zion makes his NBA debut.
Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles Clippers – October 22 (TNT)
All the hype will reach peak levels as part two of Opening Night features the two L.A. squads facing off on the court to begin a potentially new rivalry. The lights will be bright, the atmosphere will be vibrant, and the Lakers and Clippers will begin their hopeful path to the NBA Finals against each other.
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors – October 24 (TNT)
As the Warriors begin a new chapter after reaching five straight Finals, they will face a strong foe right from the get-go. Kawhi will now look to defeat the defending Western Conference champions in a new uniform as his Clippers head up the coast to face off against Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and newly acquired D’Angelo Russell. Of course, the Warriors are lower on firepower than the last time Kawhi faced them but don’t expect a cakewalk in this season series for the Clippers.
Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets – November 6 (ESPN)
The Houston Rockets may still have a sour taste in their mouth from consecutive playoff eliminations by the Warriors. Now, the playing field is leveled as James Harden and Russell Westbrook will face off against a weakened Warriors squad compared to years past.
Boston Celtics at Charlotte Hornets – November 7 (TNT)
The Hornets will be irrelevant this year, except for this matchup with the Celtics. Long-time Hornet, Kemba Walker, will make his return to the Queen City after proclaiming he wants to win. This will be a vibrant atmosphere, and a possible tribute to Walker may be created.
Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers – November 13 (ESPN)
The Golden State Warriors have been none too kind to LeBron James in recent memory. However, if last year’s Christmas game was any indication, LeBron can still compete with the Warriors by himself in any uniform. Now, the new-look Lakers will look to make a statement by attempting to defeat Golden State in the friendly confines of the Staples Center.
Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics – November 27 (ESPN)
After a tumultuous couple seasons in Boston, Kyrie Irving makes his return to Boston wearing a uniform from perhaps the city’s biggest sports rival, NYC. With a charged atmosphere likely, fans can also assess how Kyrie has fared in Brooklyn so far into the season, as well as how the Celtics are doing without him.
Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans – November 27 (ESPN)
On the same day Kyrie returns to Boston, Anthony Davis makes his return to New Orleans. This again will be a charged atmosphere, especially given the fact the Lakers and Pelicans swapped a lot of players. This game will have its headlines, such as Zion vs. LeBron, Lonzo vs. the Lakers, and of course AD vs. his old squad.
Los Angeles Clippers at Toronto Raptors – December 11 (ESPN)
After making the decision to leave the Raptors after winning the chip with them, Kawhi makes his one visit to the 6. Though he will be hailed as a hero in Canada for many years to come, this will be an emotional game for Raptors fans and the city of Toronto.
Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers – December 18 (ESPN)
The 76ers have quite a bit of star power and a reason to believe they can come out of the East. To prove they can withstand any opponent and show they have the right core, they must battle former teammate Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat. Butler may be welcomed with hostility rather than warm cheers.
Milwaukee Bucks at Philadelphia 76ers – December 25 (ABC)
Christmas Day 2019 has a terrific lineup of games, including another rendition of the Clippers vs. Lakers. However, this matchup is the most intriguing, as it pits the two preseason East favorites against each other. This will be a statement game, and the winner can prove a point that they are a legitimate threat to reach the Finals.
Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder – January 9 (TNT)
After the shocking blockbuster trade that sent two All-Star point guards to new teams, there will be reconciliation as Russell Westbrook makes his return to OKC after his long tenure. The night will surely honor Westbrook’s efforts during his stay in OKC. Likewise, CP3 will play against the Rockets after a failed effort to reach the Finals and rumors circulating about his relationship with James Harden.
New Orleans Pelicans at Memphis Grizzlies – January 20 (TNT)
The game with the least likely playoff implications on this list features two stars of the future, as Zion Williamson will face off against number two pick Ja Morant. Maybe a new rivalry may brew as these two high IQ players face off.
Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors – March 16 (ESPN)
Within a ten-day span, there will be two matchups between the Finals teams from 2018-19. The matchup will still be interesting as Klay Thompson will likely be back and the Raptors core remains formidable. The most interesting part at this point in the season will be where both teams stand in the playoff picture.