From LeBron James‘ journey to a three-peat, to the return of Derrick Rose, there are a lot of great stories entering the 2013-14 season. One intriguing part of basketball every year is the rivalries. Over the past few years, there have been new teams that have played each other in monumental games, or had it out for each other in the regular season. This leads to a growing dislike among fans and teams, creating a homegrown rivalry.
While these might change throughout the course of the NBA season, here are five rivalries to keep an eye on this season.
*** *** ***
5. Chicago Bulls – Miami Heat
It did not matter that Derrick Rose spent last season on the sidelines for Chicago, as their toughness was not hindered at all. When everyone on the playground was afraid of Miami, Chicago stepped up and fought back.
Last year, they split the season series including one win at home and one win in Miami. The Bulls became known as the “streak killers,” ending Miami’s historic 27-game winning streak. Chicago’s recipe to win was to out-tough Miami, especially in the front-court, and they prevailed. The playoffs last season renewed the team’s regular season rivalry; they met in the second round, and things started to get chippy. Nate Robinson and a tattered Bulls squad were able to steal the first game of the series. After only playing close to six players, Robinson dropped 27 points on the way to a road victory. Although it was their only win of the series, the remaining four games were all hard fought and none of the wins were easy for Miami.
This year, Derrick Rose makes his return and Chicago will immediately feel the impact, as will Miami. The last time Rose played, they beat out the Heat for the best record in the East. Miami has a few reasons to worry this year, and Chicago is a legitimately one of them. The Bulls and Heat will meet four times this season, meeting first on opening night, which is sure to be a barnburner. LeBron James seems to love playing against Chi-Town, averaging 28 points through four regular season games last year. Both teams will be looking to make a statement come opening night.
4. Denver Nuggets – Golden State Warriors
Last year, these may have been the two most fun teams to watch. Crowds all over the country ate up their high-octane, up-and-down style of play. When they play each other, their games are never lack for points. Last year, Denver stole the series 3-1, including a double overtime thriller early in the season. If this wasn’t enough for fans, the two teams eventually met in the first round of the Playoffs for six more games. With both teams playing a similar brand of basketball, their offenses ran wild in game two, scoring a combined 248 points.
One thing that will fuel the fire this year is Andre Iguodala‘s trade to the Warriors. Iggy will now play his former team four times and that means four opportunities to show why they should have tried to keep the defensive stalwart on the wing. The Warriors are very deep and young, while Denver looks to be the same. But Denver will be adjusting early to their new coach Brian Shaw.
Another dimension to this rivalry is how young it is and the opportunity for grow. Sometimes all it takes is one playoff series for two teams to build an animosity towards each other. This year we should see both teams wearing their pride on their jerseys while trying to gain every possible advantage they can when matched aginst one another. It is reasonable to think the two could once again meet in the first round of the playoffs considering how the west is set to pan out again this year.
3. New York Knicks – Brooklyn Nets
Last year was one of the few where the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets were playoff teams in the same season. Fans were quick to jump on a borough’s bandwagon and a rivalry rose between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Mostly fan-made the first year, Brooklyn and New York split the season series with three out of four games being decided by three points.
This year, the Nets have an entirely new look, and coincidentally, brought in noted Knicks haters Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. These two gave Knicks fans headaches throughout their tenure in Boston, and now they plan to do the same right in the Knicks’ backyard. Players and fans have already begun bantering back and fourth about which team will win the division and contend for a championship, and you can feel an actual rivalry brewing between the two â€” unlike the one-sided contests with the New Jersey Nets of old. Besides the fact that they have always shared a division, there is now reason to believe the two are legitimate threats in the East with a chance to face off in the playoffs this year.
Paul Pierce and Deron Williams are both notorious for having big games against the Knicks, but they are dealing with a very tough squad across the East River this year that is improved defensively. However, it will be tough for any defense in the NBA to match up with Brooklyn’s starting five this season. This may be one of the most anticipated rivalries of the year.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder – Houston Rockets
Now that the Houston Rockets have signed Dwight Howard and have become formidable contenders, the top of the West will be reshaped with the new super-duo of Howard and James Harden. Harden also happens to be good friends with the duo in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Last year, Harden had one monster game against his former team, pouring in 46 points in one of his first games with Houston.
This may be a premature rivalry, but there will be some fun matchups between the two this year, especially with Howard landing in Houston and giving the Thunder a run for their money. Another playoff matchup this spring would give the rivalry between the two more steam; however, in last year’s postseason matchup, they went six games behind Harden’s 26 PPG average. Now with Howard relieving the offensive load and adding to their soft defense when Omer Asik wasn’t on the court, Houston has a chance to matchup better against the Thunder. Even with Russell Westbrook healthy and playing, the new-look Rockets may still knock them off.
1. Miami Heat – Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers were one game away from the NBA Finals, and are coming back this year with something to prove. Unfortunately for them, the Miami Heat stand between them and a shot at a title. The Pacers fortified their frontline this offseason in the hopes of attacking Miami’s weakest position.
Indiana’s Paul George â€” who broke out in last year’s postseason â€” counters Miami’s strongest position, and player LeBron James. Despite a weak Game 7 in the ECF’s where he only scored seven points, George he still put up an average of 19 PPG against Miami. This year, the Heat and Pacers will battle it out for one of the top spots in the conference.
An Eastern Conference Finals rematch would really prod a lasting rivalry between the two after meeting in the conference finals last year and the conference semifinal’s two years ago.
What are the best rivalries to watch this season?
Follow Steve on Twitter at @Steve_Scafidi.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.