There are still moves to make, and a few key free agents don’t yet have homes. But for the most part, we know who will be good (Miami, OKC, San Antonio, etc.), we know who will be bad (Charlotte, above all else) and we know who/what will be entertainingly hilarious to watch (Metta World Peace, the first time Kobe yells at Steve Nash, Minnesota’s attempt to play nothing but white players instead of nothing but point guards all year). Besides those things, here are the top 10 games you should be looking forward to the most.
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10. OKC AT SAN ANTONIO, NOV. 1
I’m still not sure exactly what happened in last season’s Western Conference Finals. Win 20 in a row, and then lose four straight? That was fishier than LeBron‘s final flameouts in Cleveland. The Spurs will be ready to go, and because it’s the regular season, they’ll probably play like the best team of the last 20 years (which is what they did in the second half last year). After time with Team USA, I’ll be interested in seeing how Kevin Durant, and more importantly, Russell Westbrook have grown even stronger.
9. MILWAUKEE AT GOLDEN STATE, MAR. 9
Both of these teams think they’ll be better than what they are. I doubt either one makes the playoffs. But they should be fun to watch: a couple of free-wheeling offenses with great guards raining Hell from the perimeter. This will also mark the second return of Monta Ellis to the Bay, and that’ll be one of the most overlooked game stories of the year. While most of the “return” games on this list are on here because I want to hear people scream and boo, Ellis was beloved by many Warrior fans. It’ll be interesting to get a look at what their reaction will be this time. Last year, Ellis received two standing ovations from them in ironically, his first game ever in Milwaukee.
8. DERRICK ROSE’S FIRST GAME IN UNIFORM
We put Rose on the cover of Dime #69, even after he had torn up his knee in the playoffs. Why? We have faith in him, and feel this injury will only make him better. He’ll come back as a better shooter and a hopefully more efficient and smarter player. But at first, he’ll struggle, and that first game back will definitely create some jitters. Hopefully Rose makes it through without any more hiccups.
7. HOUSTON AT NEW YORK, DEC. 17
One of the most interesting player returns will happen early in the season. When Jeremy Lin comes back to Manhattan, will they boo him for accepting the dough? Will they boo the Rockets? Will they boo James Dolan for being a vengeful ass? This will be one of the most well-played “return” games of the season. Normally, when a player comes home for the first time since being banished, everything fails to live up to the hype. But Lin has a lot to prove to New Yorkers, especially Carmelo Anthony, and in return, Anthony has to show the world the team made the right move when it listened to him about limiting Lin’s impact with the Knicks. Two players with a lot to prove going head-to-head in MSG? Count me in.
6. MIAMI AT L.A. LAKERS, JAN. 17
Is Kobe versus LeBron old news? Yeah, probably. But, and this is obviously especially true if Dwight Howard becomes the next in line at the center spot in L.A., this game will be more about the teams for once. The Heat are the defending champs; the Lakers have Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison and a much better chance of getting back to the Finals than they did last year.