COMMENTARY | The NBA offseason moves quickly.
And while New York Knicks fans are still contrasting the joy of seeing their team win its first division title in 19 years against the heartbreak of New York failing to reach the Eastern Conference finals as a No. 2 last season, Knicks Nation is already looking toward next year.
Nothing helps to do that more than the release of next season's schedule, which the NBA announced on Tuesday, August 6.
While every game could prove to be important for the Knicks, there are several individual contests and stretches that stand out with the start of the 2013-14 NBA season less than three months away:
Oct. 30: Opening Night
Home openers are always special. But when they take place in the world's most famous arena, while giving the Knicks faithful a chance to see some new faces that are expected to be key contributors throughout the season, they have added significance.
Whether or not the reigning Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith is fully recovered from his July knee surgery by then, the first looks at Metta World Peace, Andrea Bargnani, Tim Hardaway Jr., Beno Udrih, and Jeremy Tyler in New York uniforms during a regular-season game will be interesting to see against the Milwaukee Bucks. And although Brandon Jennings is no longer a Milwaukee Buck, it will be intriguing to notice how the Knicks handle his replacement, Brandon Knight, as well as fellow new Buck O.J. Mayo.
Oct. 31: An Early Visit to the Windy City
The next evening could be a scary Halloween night for the Knicks, as they get a great test with an immediate back-to-back in one of the NBA's toughest buildings for visiting teams to get a win. It'll be another homecoming, not only for the place where Tyson Chandler began his career but also the same for World Peace. With former Rookie of the Year and league MVP Derrick Rose finally expected back from his long overdue absence by then, a Chicago trip will give New York a valuable early-season measuring stick on a legitimate championship contender's home floor.
Nov. 10-14: A Three-Game Stretch Against Some Southern Foes
A Texas two-step at Madison Square Garden, with a visit to Atlanta in between, will be fun to watch in mid-November. The Knicks swept a pair of games from last year's Western Conference champion San Antonio, but they got blown out in two games against Houston last season. New York will try to handle the Spurs again on November 10, and then see if it has enough energy left one night after a game in Atlanta to get revenge against ex-Knick Jeremy Lin and James Harden, while seeing Dwight Howard in Rockets threads for the fist time on November 14.
Nov. 20 - Dec. 5: A Big Road Trip Bookended by the First Looks at Indiana and Brooklyn
Spending Thanksgiving away from home, the Knicks will be thankful if they can survive a tough stretch that starts on November 20 when they host ex-Knick Chris Copeland, while having to find an answer for the addition of Luis Scola and the reintroduction of Danny Granger as they get their first crack at Indiana, the team that ended their season in the Eastern semifinals, last May.
After that meeting, a four-game road swing starts in in Washington, but then moves west with very difficult stops against the Los Angeles Clippers and in Denver. The Knicks then get a quite winnable game at home against New Orleans, but four days later, they'll travel across town to face the new-look Brooklyn Nets for the first time since their city rivals became a sort of "Bostklyn CeltNets" hybrid. But it won't be just Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry in new uniforms. Nets newcomers Andrei Kirilenko and Alan Anderson will offer stern challenges as well.
December 11: Rose and the Bulls Are Back at the Garden
Last year, even without Rose, Chicago beat New York all four times the teams played. In case the Knicks don't get it right in their second game next season, they'll get their first chance at home to get by the Bulls one night after a road game in Cleveland.
December 21, 25: Hosting Two of the West's Best
A visit to Orlando on December 23 comes two days after a Saturday noon tip at the Garden against Memphis, and two days before a Christmas Day afternoon showdown against Oklahoma City, which hasn't seen the Knicks since New York pulled off a surprising and very entertaining 125-120 road win over the Thunder to win a 12th-straight game during New York's season-high 13-game winning streak. This time, though, Oklahoma City figures to have Russell Westbrook back from injury.
December 27, 28: A Home-and-Home with Bargnani's Old Team
After waiting through the first 28 games to play against the team that drafted him with the first overall pick in 2006, Bargnani will see Toronto on consecutive days, first in New York and then one night later across the border.
January 2-5: Starting the New Year in Texas
New York will have a tough start to 2014 with three games in four days in Texas. A back-to-back in San Antonio and Houston starts the trip before it ends in Dallas just two nights later.
January 9: The Defending Champs Invade MSG
Two games after returning home from the Long Star State, the Knicks should be fired up for reigning two-time NBA champion Miami to finally pay another visit to the Garden.
January 16-20: A Trio of Contenders and a Season-Long, Eight-Game Homestand
Later in the month, it's measuring-stick time again, as the Knicks travel to Indiana on January 16 before they come home for the Clippers the next night and then play Brooklyn in New York's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee game on January 20. Those last two contests begin an eight-game homestand for the Knicks, their longest of the season. That stretch includes Kobe Bryant's lone visit to MSG with his Los Angeles Lakers on January 26, and it wraps up with a prime-time Saturday night game against Miami on February 1, one night before the New York City area hosts Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Rest of February Features More Western Tests and New York's First Trip to Miami
Some notable games against the West include trips to Oklahoma City, before the All-Star break, on February 9, and to Memphis, after the break, nine days later -- as well as home dates with Denver on February 7 and another chance for the Knicks to try to slow down Stephen Curry (after he hung 54 points on New York at MSG last year), as Golden State comes to the Garden to close the month on February 28. One night earlier, the Knicks will go to Miami for the first time during the season.
Indiana Returns to MSG in March Before the Month Concludes With a Season-Long Five-Game Western Trip
Indiana's second game in New York comes on March 19, during what figures to be the Knicks' easiest month of the regular season, despite the month closing with a season-long five-game western trip. That swing isn't as daunting as it sounds, as Golden State might be the only playoff team the Knicks face on the trip.
An April Battle of the Boroughs for the Atlantic Crown?
Besides one last visit to Miami on April 6, and two more games for Bargnani against Toronto over the final four games of the regular season, the Knicks and Nets will meet on April 2 (at MSG) and again in New York's penultimate regular-season contest in Brooklyn on April 15, in a pair of potentially big showdowns that could have a huge say in which of the two New York City division favorites might end up as Atlantic Division champions.
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