In the least-surprising turn of events since the backlash against Barack Obama for not instantly fixing a broken system, the NBA announced it will put Heat/Lakers on center stage as its Christmas Day main event, as well as put the Heat, Lakers and Celtics on display for Opening Night in October.
The League announced a lot of other marquee national-TV games last night, too, most of which aren’t being talked about much this morning. Here are some of the hidden gems just in opening week:
Chicago at Oklahoma City (Oct. 27, ESPN) — Don’t be surprised if this is an NBA Finals matchup within the next five years. Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant are the League’s two best 21-or-under stars, and aren’t too far from being the game’s best players at their respective positions. Rose will go head-to-head with USA Basketball teammate Russell Westbrook, while Durant will have his hands full with new Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau‘s defensive schemes. This also marks the debut of the “Chicago Jazz” lineup, featuring Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer.
Portland at L.A. Clippers (Oct. 27, ESPN) — Two fan bases alternating between high optimism and constant fear. Greg Oden and Blake Griffin will take the court for the first time in months and (hopefully) stay intact the entire time for their playoff-hopeful teams. Intriguing matchups all over the floor in this one: Brandon Roy vs. Eric Gordon, ‘Dre Miller vs. Baron Davis, Oden vs. Chris Kaman, Blake vs. LaMarcus Aldridge, plus L.A. Lottery pick Al-Farouq Aminu makes his official pro debut.
Phoenix at Utah (Oct. 28, TNT) — As interested as I am in seeing Deron Williams vs. Steve Nash, I’m more interested in seeing how the Suns are going to deal with Utah’s revamped front line. I envision Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap devouring Hakim Warrick like two lions picking over the carcass of an impala, while Mehmet Okur serves Robin Lopez an eyeful of jumpers.
Orlando at Miami (Oct. 29, ESPN) — Although the rest of the schedule hasn’t been released, I’m thinking this will be the home debut of the Super-Friends. This will also be the first meeting in what should be a fierce cross-state rivalry for the next decade. Dwight Howard has been working on his post moves with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer, and will try to break some out against the team that’s hi-jacked all of his hype in the state of Florida. Dwight and Chris Bosh have always had a competitive, high-scoring rivalry, and LeBron has his own scores to settle with the Magic.
Utah at Oklahoma City (Oct. 31, NBA TV) — The last time these teams met up, Deron hit a game-winner with one second left in overtime, capping a shootout where he dropped 42 points and Durant put up 45. There was also some controversy at the end, when KD was fouled on his game-winning attempt but there was no call. I’ve never seen Durant more angry than he was that night, and he definitely hasn’t forgotten about it. This is also Eric Maynor‘s next chance to light up the team that traded him for a discount pack of socks.