The Houston Rockets' 2012-13 schedule is full of big games, both to the passionate and casual fan of the team. The air of mystery around this young squad heading into the season is intriguing to both Houston fans and the NBA world alike.
The Rockets could be a competitive, chippy playoff contender, or a developing squad that finishes 10 games under .500. It's too tough to call at this point.
Houston made several changes to its roster in the offseason. Starters Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola are gone. Free-agent acquisitions Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik will move into the starting lineup. Third-year power forward Patrick Patterson also steps into the starting lineup.
The Rockets also added three rookies with huge upside in Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones. The team will count on veterans like Chandler Parsons and Kevin Martin for consistency.
With the team relying on so many unproven players with untapped potential, the sky is the limit for this year's Houston Rockets.
Here are 10 of the biggest games on the Houston Rockets' schedule this season.
The first game of the season sells itself. Fans finally get to see what the new Houston Rockets will look like after one of the biggest offseason makeovers in team history.
Rockets fans will find out which players won minutes in camp. Rotations are always bound to change at some point, but the first game always clears up a few minutes-related questions right away.
Which rookies will play and for how long? Head coach Kevin McHale will have to play the rookies at some point this season, and we'll find out who impressed him the most in preseason.
Detroit Pistons lottery pick Andre Drummond will also make his NBA debut in this game. The former Connecticut Huskies big man will have the most national attention on him out of any of the rookies in this game.
The home opener will see the new-look Portland Trail Blazers visit the Toyota Center. The Blazers feature a pair of impressive rookies this year in point guard Damian Lillard and center Meyers Leonard.
Considering the number of rookies on the Houston Rockets, this game could see some matchups on the floor that look more like a college All-Star game from last year. Both teams will be integrating youth into their rotations early in the season.
The Blazers will have their usual host of Rockets-killers in LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum to go with their youth. The Rockets are in store for a tough matchup with this Portland team in their home opener.
Any time you have a chance to face the defending NBA champions, it's a big deal. When you add two of the biggest superstars in the sport, Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, to the mix, it's a really big deal.
The Miami Heat will visit the Toyota Center early this season, and the young Houston Rockets might be too green for this juggernaut. There's no question the Rockets will have this game circled, but it's going to take a great team effort to compete in this one.
The Rockets could make a huge statement to the league and the world if they could somehow pull of an upset against the defending champs.
The Houston Rockets face the New Orleans Hornets and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft at the Toyota Center in a game that again will see several young players in big roles for their teams.
Anthony Davis will face the Rockets for the first time in his career. Houston's big men will be tested by the rookie on both ends of the floor.
Jeremy Lin will also have the chance to welcome rookie Austin Rivers to the NBA. Lin could prove to be a difficult matchup for Rivers, who will still be getting his feet wet in the league.
The Southwest Division rivals will see plenty of each other in the future, and this game will set the pace for this rivalry going forward.
The Houston Rockets' first crack at the Super Lakers comes on the road at the Staples Center. This game will be the first of a back-to-back set for the Rockets, as they face the Utah Jazz the next night in Salt Lake City.
Fans are undoubtedly still sour about how the Dwight Howard trade went down this summer. There are plenty of fans who still feel the Rockets had the best offer out there for the All-Star center, and he should be suiting up in Rockets red for this game.
Regardless, this game will still be one of the most anticipated on Houston's schedule. The Rockets always seem to give the Lakers trouble in Los Angeles, so it could be one of the NBA's early-season upsets.
The I-10 rivals hook up for the first time in early December in San Antonio. The Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs always have some of the most intense games on the NBA schedule every year.
Both teams' fanbases travel well for these games, and it usually leads to a long, loud night, whether it's in Houston or San Antonio. Bragging rights are on the line in this annual series, and the first game is a tone setter.
The Rockets' roster has changed drastically over the years in this rivalry, while the Spurs' roster hasn't changed much, outside of the team's role players.
Rockets fans love to hate Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and this game tips off another year in this heated rivalry.
The schedule-makers gave Houston Rockets fans a treat in December, when the team will face bitter rivals on back-to-back nights.
After the first game of the year against the San Antonio Spurs, the Rockets head home for an equally intense game against the divisional rival Dallas Mavericks.
The Rockets will get a look at some new Mavericks for the first time in this game. Center Chris Kaman is Dallas' new addition to its frontcourt. Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo were also brought in to help offset the losses of Jason Kidd and Jason Terry.
Houston can't afford to lose back-to-back games to division rivals. The team has dropped far too many contests to its in-state rivals in recent years.
This one is kind of a big deal. Jeremy Lin finally returns to New York after leaving the New York Knicks in free agency. His departure was not well received, to put it lightly, and the fans of New York will have a chance to boo or cheer their former franchise hero.
Carmelo Anthony called Lin's contract into question, the Houston Rockets twisted the Knicks' arm with their contract offer to Lin, and now both parties involved can settle their differences on the court.
This is one of the few Rockets games on national TV (NBA TV), so fans of the team all over the country will have a chance to watch this showdown.
Another one of the Houston Rockets' few national TV games (ESPN) will be one of their biggest, as the team finally has the opportunity to play on Christmas.
Free-agent acquisition Omer Asik returns to Chicago to face his former team. The defensive big man will be looking for some sweet revenge after the Chicago Bulls declined to match Houston's offer in restricted free agency.
This will be a low-scoring, defensive game, as they usually are whenever the Bulls are involved. The Bulls will have even more of a defensive approach with Derrick Rose's return to the court this season in serious doubt.
Houston Rockets fans living in Brooklyn will no longer have to make the trip to New Jersey to see the Rockets face the Nets. The Rockets will visit the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the first time ever in this matchup.
If the Rockets are going to make a playoff push this season, they'll need to start winning games in late February. The team will no longer have the inexperience excuse, and it'll be put-up-or-shut-up time.
The team will know by this time if it has a chance to make a playoff push, or if looking towards the lottery makes more sense for the organization.