Here are a dozen matchups we're most excited about heading into the 2014-15 NBA season.
The release of the 2014-15 NBA regular season schedule doesn't get us any closer to watching actual basketball, but our daydreams have some extra detail as next season draws closer. This year's 82-game slate has no shortage of exciting matchups to anxiously wait for, whether you're a casual hoops fan or already signed up for League Pass.
A new schedule means a chance to look at some of the big games that will pepper the upcoming season, and it's never too early to start getting pumped up. Don't tell me the start of the season is nearly 11 weeks away, because BASKETBALL IS COMING BACK soon.
For now, let's take a look at a dozen matchups from the schedule that have us getting giddy for hoops:
vs. Spurs, Oct. 28
The Spurs hang their fifth championship banner and Chandler Parsons rocks a Mavericks uniform for the first time, but most importantly, we'll get to watch real, competitive basketball played by the best athletes in the world again.
I just want to pepper this entire section with celebration GIFs but nobody deserves that.
vs. , Oct. 29
Oh hey, Derrick Rose! He's back, again! We'll get to see some of the former NBA MVP during Team USA's appearance at the FIBA World Cup starting later this month, but really, everyone wants to know whether D-Rose can again be a premier player in the NBA.
That journey will begin a day after the season opens when the Bulls visit Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks for their first game. We've already done this once before, with mixed results, but everyone remains optimistic heading into The Return 2.0.
Knicks vs., Oct. 30
The return of LeBron James.
Nothing else really needs to be said to justify this as one of the biggest games of the NBA season. Watching James come out onto the court in Cleveland, four years after leaving the city for a championship-lusting sojourn to South Beach, will be a special event. There will be months ahead of tough basketball and hard questions, especially for a Cavaliers team that's somewhat a work-in-progress, but that first night is going to be a party.
Here's to guessing you'll want to watch and take it all in, too.
Thunder vs. Clippers, Oct. 30
What better way for the Clippers to begin a new era under owner Steve Ballmer than a marquee matchup against Oklahoma City? There will be a lot to celebrate at this game, even if there's still a Sterling on the sideline, and some exceptional basketball should be a perfect way to do it.
Don't think that Chris Paul, Doc Rivers and company forget their ouster from the 2013 postseason at the hands of Oklahoma City, either. These might be the two teams most capable of toppling San Antonio next season, and it makes for one fantastic early-season matchup.
vs. , Nov. 12 (in Mexico City)
Okay, so watching Minnesota try to keep up with James Harden dunking on dudes while Nikola Pekovic makes angry faces doesn't sound great (or does it?), but tell me you're not interested in watching an NBA game that's played in Mexico City?
When the Timberwolves tried to host a game in the Mexican capital last year, a generator malfunction caused the arena to fill with smoke 45 minutes before tip-off, ultimately postponing the game. The last time two teams actually completed a contest in Mexico was Dec. 6, 1997, when a sold-out crowd watched the Charles Barkley-led Rockets beat Dallas, 108-106.
Early in the season, this sounds like a pretty fun game to me.
vs. , Nov. 19
Jason Kidd returns to Brooklyn. Here's to guessing he doesn't go out with his old bosses after the game.
vs. Timberwolves, Nov. 26
You might have to tolerate some crappy basketball, but the chance to watch Jabari Parker vs. Andrew Wiggins should wash away those concerns. From all indications, these two rookies are as brilliant as everyone says, and a late November matchup could start an ongoing NBA rivalry that stretches for years.
This comes a few weeks into the season, so we should have some more solidified expectations for Parker and Wiggins by then, but it'll be fun to watch these two in major NBA roles. We got some glimpses of their superlative talent at the Las Vegas Summer League last month, and it should only get better as they gain experience.
vs. , Christmas Day
It's Christmas Day, you're probably with your family, watching basketball or doing a little of both, so you might as well spend some time seeing how South Beach welcomes back LeBron James. We saw a mixed reaction from the Heat fan base after the 29-year-old's return to Cleveland last month, and this game will be his first back in Miami since the move.
The basketball itself should be pretty entertaining, with a still-decent Miami team taking on what's likely going to be the Eastern Conference favorite in the Cavs, but the narratives behind this one are juicy. Everyone remembers how the Heat were received four years ago when the Big Three first came together, and while this isn't really the same, things should be interesting. After all, what's going to happen with LeBron slams one home right in Wade's face?
Thunder vs. Wizards, Jan. 21
If you've ever been around #WizardsTwitter, you know that the fine fan base in Washington, D.C., has a bit of an obsession with Kevin Durant. It's for good reason -- he's the second-best basketball player in the world, a native of D.C. and a free agent in 2016, which has folks daydreaming of KD pulling off HOMECOMING: THE SEQUEL.
That won't happen any time soon, though, which means Wizards fans will have to settle for Durant visiting D.C. as a member of the Thunder in January. This is a nationally televised game -- one of 10 for the Wiz next season -- and it'll be a good chance for the local fan base to show its beloved local star just how awesome it might be to join John Wall and Bradley Beal under the Verizon Center lights.
Oh, and the game should be pretty good, too. Over the last two seasons, Washington has gone 2-2 against OKC with one of those losses coming in overtime. Don't expect a blowout.
Cavaliers vs. Timberwolves, Jan. 31
Timberwolves fans showed their Midwestern charm when news hit that Kevin Love would be heading to Cleveland, but how will they react when he shows up in late January on a stacked Cavs team? Those sub-zero temperatures and countless losses might make for a less rosy welcoming, though it's not like Minnesota hasn't handled those things before.
Cavaliers vs. Spurs, March 12
LeBron and the Spurs have a long history of competitive basketball that hit a new note last season when the four-time MVP's Heat were pummeled in the 2014 NBA Finals. That makes the Cavaliers' only visit to San Antonio next season particularly interesting, for reasons that go beyond an awesome matchup on the court.
Most great players in NBA history have a rival player, but somewhat like Michael Jordan and the Pistons, LeBron's often faced the Spurs at career-defining moments. He's 1-for-3 in Finals appearances against the team, and it's possible the two sides meet again this year as the Cavaliers take over the Eastern Conference.
So it's exciting pretty much every time LeBron faces Tim Duncan and company, and next season's big game should be no different.
Thunder vs. Spurs, April 7
Less than two weeks before the end of the season, we get a possible Western Conference preview between OKC and San Antonio. The No. 1 seed in the West might be up for grabs by this point, making for an exciting matchup with serious postseason implications. You never really need an excuse to watch a game between these two teams, anyway.