With almost three months until the most highly-anticipated season in recent memory, the NBA has released their full schedule of regular season games.
As with every season, there are some games on the schedule that fans everywhere have circled as must-see. Not to anyone’s surprise, most of these games include the back-to-back defending NBA Champion Lakers and the NBA’s new Villains, the Miami Heat, who will meet on Christmas Day in possibly the most anticipated regular season game in recent history.
The Lakers and Heat aren’t the only teams in marquee games, so let’s take a look at the ten most anticipated games in the NBA this season:
10. Mar. 23, 2011 – Washington Wizards @ Los Angeles Clippers
Okay so we start the list off with a game that is more anticipated for the players in it than the result of the game itself. John Wall and Blake Griffin are the two co-favorites for Rookie of the Year, and both should be playing at a high level when their teams meet.
While their squads might be out of the playoff hunt by the time they meet, the thought of Wall and Griffin meeting at the rim on a fast-break is enough for people to tune into this game.
9. Oct. 27, 2010 – Chicago Bulls @ Oklahoma City Thunder
In what could possibly be a 2013 NBA Finals preview, the NBA’s two best young and rising teams open the season against each other. Defending scoring champion Kevin Durant and his Thunder will be looking to start off a season in which many analysts have them pegged to jump from the eight-seed last season to a top-three seed in the West this season.
The Bulls will be unveiling their new and improved line-up as they try and show that they are one of the top four teams in the East. There are some great individual match-ups in this game as well as two of the best young point guards in the league go head-to-head when Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook go at it.
8. Dec. 2, 2010 – Miami Heat @ Cleveland Cavaliers
In possibly the most anticipated basketball game in Cavs history, Lebron James returns to Cleveland as quite possibly the most hated man in the history of the city. While I don’t agree with how Lebron left, the fact is it was his right to leave Cleveland, and Cavs fans still haven’t come to grips with it yet.
The type of reaction is not what is in question, as much as how vicious will it be. James will be booed, heavily, probably every time he touches the ball, but the hope is that no fan tries to take it too far. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert will probably take this as an opportunity to get himself some media attention, but at least there will probably be a good promo night for when the King returns as the Villain.
7. Jan. 15, 2011 – Miami Heat @ Chicago Bulls
Since “The Decision” debacle on ESPN, reports have leaked that Lebron James ultimately knocked the Bulls off his list because Chicago star Derrick Rose never called him to make a recruiting pitch. After that report leaked, Rose took to a Chicago sports radio station to let it be known that he would be staying in Chicago for his entire career, and that he didn’t feel the need recruit any other stars because his squad was good enough to take the East now.
Well the Bulls will get their chance to prove that Rose was right and they belong in the East’s elite when the travelling circus that is the Heat make their way to Chicago at the turn of the calendar year. Heat star Dwyane Wade will also feel the wrath of the Chicago crowd as many feel he and Chris Bosh used the home-town Bulls as a pawn to show Lebron they were going to be a package deal by having very public negotiations with the Bulls together. This game should bring us some playoff intensity earlier than usual.
6. Dec. 10, 2010 – Los Angeles Lakers @ Chicago Bulls
In the second game of a seven-game road trip, the defending Champs visit a hungry Bulls squad looking to prove they belong in the conversation of NBA elites. The Lakers will be looking to start their road trip off the right way, as they have used long trips the last two season to kick start their title drives. The Bulls will be looking for a big home win against the Champs in their campaign to prove they are a title contender.
The last time these two teams met in Chicago, Kobe Bryant went off for 20+ in the first quarter alone. Every time Kobe laces em up in Chicago something special happens. Derrick Rose will also be looking to make a statement in this game as he should have a decided advantage over the Lakers point guards in this one. And with Rose and Shannon Brown in the same building, there is a great chance we’ll have some great fast-break highlights.
5. Jan. 17, 2011 – Oklahoma City Thunder @ Los Angeles Lakers
In a rematch of last season’s first round series, the Thunder return to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers. While it was a 1 vs. 8 match-up last year, this game could be a potential Western Conference Finals preview. The Thunder should make a vast improvement now that they have more experience and this game will be a great measuring stick for them against the best of the best in the West.
Another subplot of this game will be the MVP race that should just be starting to take form around the turn of the calendar. With Lebron James and Dwyane Wade effectively taking themselves out of the MVP race by teaming up, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant will most likely be the top two favorites for the award as the season wears on. This game could establish the order of balance in the West and the MVP race.
4. Nov. 24, 2010 – Miami Heat @ Orlando Magic
While this won’t be the first meeting between these two teams, it will be the first time to really measure where they stand against each other. The Magic and Heat meet in Miami’s home opener, but the Magic will be on the second game of a back-to-back and the Heat will still be getting accustomed to each other. This November meeting should give us a little more insight into which team might have the upper-hand in their Southeast Division race.
Orlando still strongly believes it is the best team in Florida after their roster changes, regardless of what Miami did in the off-season. The Heat are looking to prove those wrong who say they’re biggest weakness and potential fatal flaw is a lack of an inside presence, and stopping Dwight Howard would be a giant step in disproving that theory. Bragging rights in this in-state rivalry will be on the line when these two teams meet.
3. Oct. 26, 2010 – Miami Heat @ Boston Celtics
In the NBA’s opening night gift to the fans, the new Big Three takes on the reigning Big Three as the Heat head to Boston to take on the defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics. This is probably one of the most anticipated season openers in NBA history, and a very good measuring stick for the Heat right away by taking on an experienced, veteran squad in Boston that they will almost assuredly have to beat if they are to get to the Finals.
Boston has sat back and made some under-the-radar moves this summer while, just like last season, all the hype and praise has been heaped on another team. The Celtics are quietly confident they are the team to beat in the East and an opening night win against Miami could be a big statement for the Celtics and a wake-up call for Miami. The flip-side of that is what a win for the Heat could do for Miami’s confidence the rest of the season, and how a win could make them the favorites in the East for the rest of the season.
2. Jan. 30, 2011 – Boston Celtics @ Los Angeles Lakers
If it was possible for this rivalry to get any more interesting after the Lakers epic seven game Finals win over the Celtics (how I love reminding everyone about that), this rivalry may be even more interesting now that the Celtics have added former Laker great Shaquille O’neal. Since his departure from L.A. Shaq has been one of the most hated players by most Laker fans, and him coming back to Staples Center in Celtic green will not make that hatred go away any time soon.
But this rematch is about more than just Shaq coming to town as a Celtic. You have Ron Artest and Paul Pierce going at it again. Kobe Bryant trying to guard Rajon Rondo. The entire Celtics team trying to guard Kobe. Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett clashing, Doc Rivers against Phil Jackson, and on and on. This is one regular season game that has a Finals atmosphere every time these two teams take the court, and this game will be no different.
1. Dec. 25, 2010 – Miami Heat @ Los Angeles Lakers
Would any other game be number one on this list? In what could legitimately be called the most anticipated regular season game in NBA history, alongside Michael Jordans first comeback and Shaq vs. Kobe part 1, the defending Champs welcome the Heat to Staples Center. While it is just a regular season game, the fact of the matter is everyone involved is looking forward to this possible Finals preview.
Lebron/D-Wade/CB4 vs. Kobe/LO/Pau/Bynum/Artest (advantage Lakers by the way) in a game full of unique match-ups. This game will give us our first look at many questions people have about these two teams going against each other. Can the pure talent of the Miami trio outweigh the Lakers size advantage inside? Is the Lakers top-to-bottom depth enough to beat a Miami team with three superstars? While it’s only one game in the regular season, this will be a game that everyone looks forward to, and will allow one of these teams to take early control of the race for home-court in the NBA Finals.
While there are a lot of great games on the schedule this season, these ten stand out more than the rest. The fact that most of them include the Lakers/Heat/Magic and Celtics should tell you where the power in the NBA most likely will be this season. Regardless, there will be some amazing games in the NBA this year and I can’t wait until October 26!
What games are you looking forward to this season?
Just for fun, 5 games you won’t be watching this year:
5. Jan. 1, 2011 – New Jersey Nets @ Minnesota Timberwolves
4. Oct. 29, 2010 – Cleveland Cavaliers @ Toronto Raptors
3. Nov. 13, 2010 – Indiana Pacers @ Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Apr. 1, 2011 – New Jersey Nets @ Philadelphia 76ers
1. Apr. 11, 2011 – Detroit Pistons @ Cleveland Cavaliers