Save the date: Fifteen can't-miss games for the 2008-09 season
Get out your red pencils and calendars, NBA fans. The league released its 2008-09 schedule on Wednesday, and there is no shortage of intriguing matchups. Here is our early list (in chronological order) of 15 games you won't want to miss:
Oct. 28: Cavaliers at Celtics. What better way to tip off the season than with LeBron James and the Cavs trying to wreck ring night for the Celtics? Paul Pierce's recent declaration that he's the best player in the world surely caught LeBron's attention as well.
Oct. 28: Trail Blazers at Lakers. In the second game of an opening-night doubleheader, ballyhooed center Greg Oden makes his NBA debut against the defending Western Conference champions. Is Oden, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, the real deal? We'll start to find out here (provided his recovery continues to progress on schedule).
Oct. 29: Bucks at Oklahoma City. It's opening night in more ways than one for Oklahoma City's new NBA franchise as the yet-unnamed team, formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics, plays its first game. With 20,000 fans expected to pack the Ford Center, it should be a rousing start.
Oct. 29: Raptors at Sixers. Jermaine O'Neal (Toronto) and Elton Brand (Philadelphia) begin play with their new teams in a matchup of two Eastern Conference squads seeking to make the jump to legit contender status. Fans in Boston, Cleveland, Detroit and Orlando will want to pay attention.
Nov. 4: Celtics at Rockets. How will Houston's newly formed threesome of Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest stack up against Boston's championship trio of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen?
Nov. 20: Lakers at Suns. Just when you thought the Shaq-Kobe feud was over, the defrocked Deputy Shaq reignited it with that rap video mocking Bryant for the Lakers' Finals flameout. This first meeting between the old combatants should be, well, "tasty."
Nov. 21: Celtics at Timberwolves. Garnett made the trip to Minnesota last season but did not play because of injury, so this will be his first game against the team with which he spent his first 12 seasons.
Dec. 19: Mavericks at Nets. He faced them once last year in Dallas. But this marks Jason Kidd's first visit back to the Swamp since his big trade last year. New Jersey fans, mindful of Kidd's role in taking the Nets to back-to-back Finals earlier in the decade, will no doubt show him some love.
Dec. 22: Lakers at Grizzlies. Pau Gasol is back in Memphis -- and he'll oppose his younger brother, Marc, a Grizzlies rookie whose rights were traded by the Lakers as part of last season's much-debated Pau trade.
Dec. 25: Celtics at Lakers. It's a Christmas gift for NBA fans (one of five games on the schedule), as Boston and Los Angeles meet for the first time since last season's Finals. Kobe and the Lakers surely will be looking for a small measure of payback, and this time they hope to have the services of young center Andrew Bynum.
Dec. 26: Bulls at Heat. The top two picks in the 2008 draft, Derrick Rose (Bulls) and Michael Beasley (Heat), face each other for the first time on the day after Christmas. They won't exactly be going head-to-head, but it could be an early preview of a Rookie of the Year race that also might include Oden.
Dec. 31: Sixers at Clippers. Brand helps ring out 2008 by making his return to L.A. after spurning the Clippers to sign with the 76ers. It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction the once-beloved Brand gets from his jilted fans in La-La Land.
Jan. 19: Cavs at Lakers. LeBron vs. Kobe caps TNT's tripleheader on Martin Luther King Day.
Jan. 25: Clippers at Warriors. Baron Davis returns to the Bay Area after bailing on the Warriors to sign with the Clippers. While Davis helped end Golden State's 12-year playoff drought two years ago, he might not get a real warm reception from the always raucous Oracle crowd.
Feb. 6: Blazers at Oklahoma City. The top two picks from last year's draft, Oden and Kevin Durant, meet for the first time as pros.