NBA schedule release 2013-14: 50 games to circle on the calendar
11. Nov. 16: Wizards host Cavaliers in match-up of playoff hopefuls
Two prime contenders to make the leap out of the 2013 lottery will get their first crack at each other in the nation’s capital. The Kyrie Irving vs. John Wall match-up is always one to drool over, but there are tons of young, intriguing players looking to establish (Anthony Bennett, Otto Porter) or grow (Bradley Beal, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters) their NBA reputations.
12. Nov. 18: Clippers look to avenge postseason loss to Grizzlies
A fluky ankle sprain popped up at the worst possible time for Blake Griffin, who was limited in the final two games of L.A.’s first-round playoff series against Memphis. The Grizzlies wound up winning four straight games by double-digits to eliminate the Clippers in six. It’s exhausting — but endlessly entertaining — to watch a healthy Griffin tussle for 15 rounds with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
13. Nov. 20: Pistons visit Hawks for Josh Smith’s return
For years, Josh Smith had to listen to Hawks fans — his home fans! — loudly boo and heckle him as he launched ill-advised jumpers. NBA players are helpless in that situation; they can’t exactly stand up for themselves by turning on their paying customers. Smith, recently inked to a four-year deal by the Pistons, now gets the chance to stick it to the Philips Arena boo birds. This has home run or strikeout potential: One can picture his glee if the Pistons prevail just as easily as one can imagine the crowd cackling “I told you so” if Smith starts raining bricks.
14. Nov. 20: Knicks host Pacers after losing in playoffs
The last time Indiana and New York faced each other, Pacers center Roy Hibbert put up 21 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in a closeout Game 6 win that ended the Knicks’ season. Did the Knicks learn anything from their punishing series defeat?
15. Nov. 20: Mavericks host Rockets after missing out on Dwight Howard
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is probably already preparing his pithy pre-game remarks for Dwight Howard’s first trip to the Big D after passing up on the Mavericks to sign with the Rockets. With any luck, Dirk Nowitzki will be in top form so that Dallas’ free agency whiffs in recent summers won’t need to be rehashed for the umpteenth time.
16. Nov. 25: Pistons’ Brandon Jennings gets his first crack at the Bucks
Brandon Jennings wasted no time playing the “chip on my shoulder” card at his introductory press conference with the Pistons, and that’s exactly as it should be. His fit in Milwaukee was strained and, apparently, the tension couldn’t be resolved. Jennings was forced to settle for a deal with the Pistons that was surely below his financial expectations, after the Bucks courted Jeff Teague and traded for Luke Ridnour. If this whole soap opera ends with a sequel to Jennings’ signature 55-point night in 2009 then it will have all been worth it. Don’t count on that, though. This could easily be just another forgettable game between two Eastern Conference also-rans.
17. Nov. 27: Thunder, Spurs renew battle for Western Conference supremacy
Even with all the moves made by the Clippers, Rockets and Warriors this offseason, the West’s two best teams in recent years have every reason to believe they will be at or near the top of the standings again in 2013-14. Memphis denied Oklahoma City its shot at defending its 2012 Western Conference title against San Antonio last year, which should make the renewal of one of the most entertaining and competitive rivalries that much sweeter.
18. Dec. 4: Spurs and Timberwolves face off in in Mexico City
San Antonio and Minnesota head south of the border for one of the NBA’s two regular season games that will be played outside of the United States and Canada. Mexico City has long been known for its insane soccer environments, so we’ll see how that translates here. Somehow, Minnesota is the home team for this game, which makes no sense whatsoever from a geographical perspective.
19. Dec. 5: Knicks visit Nets in first battle for NYC
The Big Apple’s big spending offseason arms race gets its first crosstown match-up in the Barclays Center. Not only do Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce get their first crack at their longtime division rivals while wearing Nets uniforms, but Brooklyn’s new coach, Jason Kidd, gets to man the sideline against many of his former Knicks teammates.
20. Dec. 6: Trey Burke, Jazz get division test against Damian Lillard, Blazers
Trey Burke, the No. 9 pick in this year’s draft, finds himself in much the same position as Damian Lillard, who was taken No. 6 overall last season. Handed the keys to a rebuilding Jazz team just as Lillard was last season, Burke, who is seen as a possible 2014 Rookie of the Year candidate, will get his first of many tests against the unanimous 2013 Rookie of the Year in Portland.