2022 NBA Schedule release: 13 must-watch games this season

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All NBA games are not created equal.

There will be 1,230 NBA games played this season, but only a select few will have the star power, the drama, the intensity, and the jeopardy for teams that draws us in to watch games. What follows is a list of 13 must-watch NBA games this season, ones where your parents should set their DVRs (and you should remember to catch the stream).

Oct. 18: 76ers at Celtics

Opening night is supposed to be about the champions — and the Warriors will get their rings while LeBron James looks on — but the more interesting game is the first game of the NBA season. Philadelphia upgraded this offseason (P.J. Tucker, Danuel House, DeAnthony Melton). Boston upgraded this offseason (Malcolm Brogdon, Danilo Gallinari). An opening night showdown will not tell us which of these contenders is coming out of the East, but it will be entertaining.

Oct. 20: Clippers at Lakers

Finally healthy, the Clippers are legitimate title contenders. Maybe the favorites to come out of the West (or second behind the Warriors). Lakers fans hate that their “little brother” franchise is outspending them, gaining a reputation as a serious franchise around the league, and has been better than them on the court for nine of the last 10 seasons. This game gives us a first look at what a fully healthy Clippers could be. It’s also a chance to see how new Lakers coach Darvin Ham’s focus on defense — and running the offense through Anthony Davis — is going. All the Lakers/Clippers games this season will be spicy.

Nov. 1: Magic at Thunder

It’s No.1 pick Paolo Banchero against No.2 pick Chet Holmgren in their first head-to-head meeting (they did not face off at Summer League). Both players landed in a good spot for them. Banchero will have the ball in his hands, asked to do a lot of shot creation in Orlando. The much more raw Holmgren can be brought along slowly and out of the spotlight in Oklahoma City. Beyond the star rookies, it should be an entertaining matchup of young teams with talent trying to figure things out.

Nov. 8: Election Day

This is a trick question — there are no games this day as the NBA promotes getting out and voting for fans and those involved with teams. It’s mostly a symbolic move, but in a nation where too many states are looking for ways to make voting more difficult, this message of openness and inclusion is important.

Dec. 9: Timberwolves at Jazz

Rudy Gobert returns to Utah as a member of what should be a very good Minnesota team. Gobert was traded (for a head-shaking haul of picks) and never pushed his way out of Salt Lake City, he should be welcomed back with cheers. But things are never quite that smooth with Gobert, it seems.

Dec. 10: Celtics at Warriors

In the first NBA Finals rematch (the other is Jan. 19), an improved Celtics team takes on the seasoned Warriors team that out-thought Boston in the Finals. Outside of just the talent involved, these games are interesting because the teams know each other so well and still remember the scouting reports from last June — we get to see more high-level strategy than a traditional regular season game.

Dec. 25: Bucks at Celtics

This is the best of the Christmas Day games — an intense seven-game series carried over from last year’s playoffs. Boston is better and deeper. Milwaukee is healthy and has Khris Middleton back (*knock on wood*). This could be an Eastern Conference Finals preview (Miami and Philly would like to have a word in that conversation) between two evenly matched teams. This has real potential to be the most entertaining, best-played game on Christmas Day.

Dec. 25: Grizzlies at Warriors

There will be trash talked — no team chirped more last season than the Grizzlies, but they backed it up. However, the Warriors got the last word. We get a Christmas Day rematch of this Western Conference playoff series where the young Grizzlies were taught some lessons. How big a step forward is Memphis ready to take? Because the Warriors are not giving up the crown, if Memphis wants it, they will have to rip it out of their hands.

Dec. 27: Knicks at Mavericks

Jalen Brunson returns to Dallas. How will the fans greet him? Brunson was a Mavericks fan favorite and earned his way to a larger payday, then New York came in over the top with an offer that maybe Mark Cuban and Dallas could have matched, but Brunson was going to choose New York anyway. Luka Doncic is poised for a huge season and the Knicks have no answer for him. This should be a fun showdown.

Jan. 16: Heat at Hawks

Atlanta always (and always should) hosts a game on Martin Luther King Jr. day, and this is a fun playoff rematch from last season between the Heat and Hawks. The Heat feel snubbed by the schedule — only 11 national television games, the only team of the final eight not playing on Christmas — and this is the kind of high-profile game where they can make a statement. Atlanta got better this offseason with the addition of Dejounte Murray, but how much better?

Jan. 28: Nuggets at 76ers

Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic takes on two-time MVP runner-up Joel Embed in a battle of the two best centers in the game today. This is an excellent matchup beyond just the bigs: Nuggets are finally healthy with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.; the 76ers upgraded this offseason with Tucker, House and Melton (thanks to James Harden taking a pay cut).

Feb. 27: Heat at 76ers

Welcome to the “tampering bowl.” Allegedly. (I mean, it’s not like we know all 30 teams in the NBA tamper, right?) James Harden opted out of his $47 million contract with the 76ers and the team used that money to upgrade their roster with Tucker — poached from the Heat with a three-year, $33 million deal signed suspiciously early in free agency — among other moves. Then Harden signed a two-year deal worth $68.6 million ($33 million this season), including a player option in that second year. Harden took about a $14 million haircut this coming season. The NBA is investigating.

March 7: Grizzlies at Lakers

Yes, it’s a chance to watch Ja Morant and the young Grizzlies vs. the old (but not as old as last year’s Lakers). However, more importantly, this is the night the Lakers retire Pau Gasol’s No. 16. From Kobe Bryant (via Arash Markazi): “The reality is I don’t win those championships without Pau. The city of L.A. doesn’t have those two championships without Pau Gasol. We know that. Everyone knows that.”

Report: Draymond Green facing potential discipline after fight with Jordan Poole

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Warriors practice got heated on Wednesday and Draymond Green reportedly escalated some chest bumping with Jordan Poole and punches were thrown. The team is now considering internal disciple, according to The Athletic.

When a heated interaction with guard Jordan Poole escalated, Green forcefully struck Poole and needed to be separated swiftly, sources said. Green and Poole came chest-to-chest, with both players pushing and shoving each other prior to Green’s escalation of the physical altercation, those sources said.

There aren’t details of the incident beyond that description (at least so far), although several reporters have confirmed the was a fight and the two had to be broken up. Poole was seen getting up shots after practice when the media was allowed in and reportedly was joking with teammates.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports Tweeted out what feels like the Draymond Green camp spin on the incident.

Warriors elder statesman Andre Iguodala Tweeted out this on the situation, wanting to keep it all in the family, and adding that “it broke my heart… but it fixed my vision.”

There is a history of tension between Green and Poole, including a public flare-up between the duo early last season, but the two talked after and smoothed things over. At least for a while.

What punishment Green will face from the team remains to be seen.

Poole is on the verge of an extension to his rookie contract, one where Tylyer Herro just set the market.

Green had hoped for an extension from the Warriors this offseason but there were limited discussions between the parties. Green can opt out of the final year of his contract at the end of this season and become a free agent.

Wizards’ Kispert likely to miss start of season due to sprained ankle

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The Washington Wizards made fewer 3-pointers than any other team in the league last season. They didn’t take a lot (second fewest) and didn’t make the ones they took (fifth lowest percentage). One goal for Wes Unlseld Jr. this season was to change that dynamic, and second-year player Corey Kispert was a big part of that plan.

Now Kispert is out through at least the start of the season, sidelined 4-6 weeks by a sprained ankle, the team announced Wednesday.

The injury happened on a fluke play in Japan against the Warriors, but Kispert shouldn’t miss much time once the real games start. The Wizards are a little short on the wing right now with Kispert joining Deni Avdija (groin injury) in the training room.

Kispert took 62% of his shots from beyond the arc last season and hit 35% of them, both solid numbers but ones Wizards hoped would improve for the 6’6″ wing this season.

Scoot Henderson says he has skills to be No.1 pick but not hung up on it

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.

A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.

Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).

Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.

There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.

Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.

There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.

Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.