NBA schedule release 2013-14: 50 games to circle on the calendar
Here’s a full rundown of 50 games to circle on the calendar between opening night — Oct. 29, 2013 — and the final day of the regular season — April 16, 2014 — with a focus on rivalries, returns, marquee match-ups, holiday games and more. All 30 teams are included. Yes, even the Sixers.
1. Oct. 29: Derrick Rose makes returns for Bulls against Heat on opening night
The leading story of the NBA’s 2013-14 opening week will be the returns of a host of All-Stars who saw their 2012-13 seasons cut short — or totally wiped out — by injuries. The most anticipated of these is returns is Derrick Rose’s, as the 2011 MVP’s 18-month recovery from an ACL injury will finally come to an end. Still one of the league’s most popular players, Rose will get to work on repairing any damage to his image that was done during his long rehabilitation last season. Rose gets the biggest possible stage to do it: an opening night tilt against the hated Heat, who have eliminated the Bulls from the playoffs in two of the last three seasons. If Rose is back to 100 percent, these two teams could feasibly represent the Eastern Conference’s cream of the crop.
2. Oct. 29: Will Kobe Bryant return for the Lakers’ opening night clash against the Clippers?
The only opening week storyline with a chance to match — or even surpass — Derrick Rose’s return is Kobe Bryant’s comeback from a season-ending Achilles injury. Bryant went down on April 12, so an opening night return would require a six-month recovery for an injury that often requires a year-long rehabilitation. With Dwight Howard bolting to Houston, Lakers fans can’t be blamed for pinning all of their hopes this season on Bryant, and there’s no question that he’s anxious to play the savior role. The only question is when.
The crosstown rivalry with the Clippers ups the stakes. The power shift in L.A. that saw the Clippers win their first Pacific Division title last season continued into the summer, when the Clippers re-signed Chris Paul and added coach Doc Rivers, J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley while the Lakers said goodbye to Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace, with only the likes of Chris Kaman and Nick Young to show for it. In an unfamiliar underdog role, the Lakers — with or without Bryant — will look to avenge the Clippers’ clean 4-0 sweep from last season.
3. Oct. 30: Thunder, with Russell Westbrook back, open at Jazz
Oklahoma City’s hopes for a second straight Finals appearance collapsed when Russell Westbrook suffered a fluky knee injury in the first round of the playoffs that required minor (but season-ending) surgery. Led by MVP runner-up Kevin Durant and Reggie Jackson, Westbrook’s stand-in, the Thunder fought gamely to the end, but they ultimately weren’t able to advance to the Western Conference finals. The explosive Westbrook’s redemption mission starts in Utah. Good luck, Trey Burke. You’re going to need it.
4. Oct. 30: New-look Cavaliers open against new-look Nets
Cleveland couldn’t stay out of the headlines this offseason, shocking the world by taking Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 overall pick, taking the plunge on Andrew Bynum, and making a nice play by signing Jarrett Jack. All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving is a year older and coming off of an impressive showing at USA Basketball’s summer minicamp, and he’ll aim to lead the Cavaliers to their first postseason appearance of the post-LeBron James era. Cleveland’s side of opening night will feature two big stories. First, will Bynum, who missed all of last season with knee issues, be available to play? How will he look after all this time off? Second, the NBA world will get to form its first impression of Bennett, who did not play in Summer League because of a shoulder injury.
Amazingly, all of those stories count as the undercard here, given that Jason Kidd will be making his NBA debut as coach of the Nets and Brooklyn’s star-studded starting lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez will be taking the court for the first time. Goodness gracious.
5. Oct. 30: Spurs and Grizzlies face off after Western Conference finals tilt
Lionel Hollins might be gone, but the core of a proud, tough Grizzlies team that was swept out of the 2013 playoffs by the Spurs is back. San Antonio beat Memphis by just two games to win the Southwest Division last season, and one of the league’s best, under-the-radar rivalries kicks off again in San Antonio.
6. Nov. 7: Rockets play host to the Lakers, Dwight Howard’s former team
The NBA did Dwight Howard and the Rockets a favor by staging Houston’s first game against the Lakers in Texas. That should alleviate some of the pressure that is sure to come when Howard makes his first return visit to Los Angeles in February. (More on that one below.)
7. Nov. 8: Will Andrew Bynum play when Cavaliers make first visit to Philadelphia?
This could be a perfect storm of fan angst with the Sixers looking to tank after a season lost to Andrew Bynum’s injury woes. Let’s just hope his knees are healthy enough that he can dodge batteries. Who can predict how one of the league’s wildest cards will respond to all the torment?
8. Nov. 8: Warriors, Spurs pick up after exciting playoff series
Remember when Stephen Curry hit for 44 points against the Spurs in Game 1 of the West semifinals and then Klay Thompson went for 34 in Game 2? Of course you do. Basketball is rarely that magical. More please.
9. Nov. 9: Mavericks and Bucks face-off after swapping guards this summer
Maybe O.J. Mayo and Monta Ellis — combo guards who went from Dallas to Milwaukee and vice versa, respectively — can trade jerseys at halftime just for the fun of it.
10. Nov. 16: Pelicans and Sixers square off following Jrue Holiday trade
Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday comes off as too happy-go-lucky to get hung up on a surprising draft day trade. The intrigue in his first game against his old Philadelphia team, then, comes from his match-up with the Sixers’ 2013 lottery pick, Michael Carter-Williams, who is being asked to step into Holiday’s All-Star shoes. School just might be in session.