After several notable leaks over the past couple of weeks, we finally have the official version of the 2013-14 NBA schedule. Let’s get right to it by taking a look at the slate for some of the key dates in the season.
OPENING NIGHT: Tuesday, October 29
MAGIC at PACERS: The first game of the season tips off at 7 p.m. ET, and will be available on League Pass only. But true junkies can see a loaded Pacers squad face a feisty, rebuilding Magic team that features rookie Victor Oladipo. It’ll kill an hour before the main event, if nothing else.
BULLS at HEAT: It’s ring night in Miami for the second straight season, but with apologies to Heat fans, seeing Derrick Rose and his likely return to the court to play a game that counts for the first time in over 18 months is going to be the leading storyline.
CLIPPERS at LAKERS: We don’t know yet if Kobe Bryant will be recovered from his torn Achilles injury in time to open the season, but we do know that the Clippers are loaded with talent, and with new head coach Doc Rivers the expectations are at an all-time high for L.A.’s historically junior squad.
CHRISTMAS DAY: Wednesday, December 25
The NBA stacks its Christmas Day lineup, and with good reason. Most casual fans don’t start paying attention to the league until then, and with the NFL season coming to an end it’s the perfect time to remind those not fully committed of exactly what they’ve been missing.
BULLS at NETS: Chicago with a healthy Derrick Rose should be one of the East’s elite, as should a Nets team that added Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the offseason. We’ll get an early indication of who has the upper hand in what should be an excellent matchup.
THUNDER at KNICKS: New York won a thriller in Oklahoma City late last season, and the league is hoping for a repeat performance — at least in terms of entertainment value — at Madison Square Garden next year.
HEAT at LAKERS: This is the day’s main event, and should feature LeBron James facing off against Kobe Bryant. Doesn’t matter if this is expected to be a down year for the Lakers — when Kobe and LeBron get together, it’s always a must-see event.
ROCKETS at SPURS: San Antonio was seconds from winning a title in Game 6 of the Finals, and the Rockets added Dwight Howard in the offseason. It’s sort of an old versus new matchup in terms of Texas-based powers, so it’ll be interesting to see how much Houston has come together against a veteran and tested Spurs team at this relatively early point in the season.
CLIPPERS at WARRIORS: The night cap to what appears to be a promising slate of games can be described in one simple word: Fun. This game should be tons of fun to watch.
We’ll have more on some of the must-see games of the season, but here are a few that should immediately pique your interest:
– Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will return to Boston with the Nets for the first time on January 26.
– Former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers returns to Boston with the Clippers on December 11.
– The Lakers will face Dwight Howard and the Rockets in Houston on November 7, while Howard will make his first appearance at Staples Center to play the Lakers on February 19.
– Andrew Bynum will return to Los Angeles to face the Lakers on January 14 as a member of the Cavaliers.
– Greg Oden will return to Portland with the Heat for the first time on December 28.