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Ranking the NBA's Top Rivalries for 2013-14, Pre-Training Camp Edition

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2013

Ranking the NBA's Top Rivalries for 2013-14, Pre-Training Camp Edition

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    I don't care about NBA history. 

    Generally, nothing could be further from the truth. I'm a total history nerd, and I can't even count the number of hours and days I've spent watching old footage and reading about players who retired before I was born.

    But for the purposes of ranking the NBA's rivalries for 2013-14, I literally don't care about history. 

    What happened in the 1980s and 1990s doesn't matter. It's all about what's going on right now, and there's been a new crop of rivalries popping up in recent years. 

    These are the top 10 sets of teams that really don't care for each other going into the 2013-14 season. There are plenty more great rivalries that aren't featured here, but none of them can match the levels of vitriol that will accompany these 10 pairings when they take the same court. 

    Hatred. Animosity. Impassioned play. Feverish effort. Desire to win at all costs. 

    You'll hear all of those phrases and more when watching one of these rivalries. Any type of basketball is great, but passionated, heated games are better than anything else. 

     

10. Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Matchups This Season

    January 17 at Boston

    February 21 at Los Angeles

     

    Like I said, I don't really care much about history here. 

    If I did, this rivalry would be sitting pretty at No. 1. This has historically been the league's best and most celebrated matchup, with the two teams battling it out for titles in multiple decades and building up generations worth of animosity. However, that doesn't matter for these purposes. 

    Neither the Boston Celtics nor the Los Angeles Lakers are going to be particularly competitive during the 2013-14 season. Seeing them meet for a championship might actually bankrupt Los Vegas given the ridiculous odds of that happening. 

    But unlike the other teams that figure to hang around in the lottery portion of the league, these two squads just legitimately hate each other. There's nothing like Celtics green to stir up an L.A. fan and vice versa. 

    No matter who is in the jerseys, the two games between these teams are certain to be intense. That's enough for the best historical rivalry to sneak in at the No. 10 spot. 

9. Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs

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    Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

    Matchups This Season

    November 30 at San Antonio

    December 25 at San Antonio

    January 28 at Houston

    April 14 at Houston

     

    The battle for supremacy in Texas is about to be turned up a notch. 

    With apologies to the Dallas Mavericks, who figure to hang around as a fringe playoff team as long as Dirk Nowitzki plays at an elite level, the contest for the Lone Star State comes down to the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs. 

    There was already enough intensity while the Rockets were struggling to make the postseason and the Spurs continued to be a Western Conference powerhouse. But there will be even more now that the teams will be battling it out for one of the top seeds in the playoffs. 

    Adding Dwight Howard will do wonders for the Rockets. They appeared to be just one piece away from true competitiveness in the West, and I'd say they got quite the piece. 

    But for Houston to actually take over the state (and some of the conference), it has to go through the established champions. San Antonio won't make it easy.

8. Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Matchups This Season

    November 9 at Miami

    January 21 at Miami

    March 19 at Boston

     

    This rivalry contains a lot of feelings, but it's tough for a matchup between a title favorite and a lottery favorite to move up much higher than this without some serious external factors. 

    The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat don't like each other. There's no denying that. They were bitter before the Heat had to go through the C's in the playoffs, and they only got more bitter when Ray Allen left Beantown for the allures of South Beach. 

    This year, though, the rivalry will be a bit strange.

    Think of it as one of those one-sided in-state rivalries like the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech. Yellow Jackets fans get all hyped up for the football games, but the Dawgs are generally expected to win in and tend to focus on other rivalries. 

    Still, Boston fans get excited enough for this one that it's still one of the league's top clashes. 

7. San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Matchups This Season

    November 27 at Oklahoma City

    December 21 at San Antonio

    January 22 at San Antonio

    April 3 at Oklahoma City

     

    The Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs didn't get a chance to clash in the 2013 playoffs. Russell Westbrook's meniscus injury made it hard enough for the No. 1 seed to beat the Houston Rockets (a solid rivalry in its own right), and the Memphis Grizzlies were just too much. 

    But that doesn't mean the feelings from the 2012 Western Conference Finals have already blown over. That was an intense series, and the intensity will still reign supreme whenever these teams step onto the same court. 

    Even though the Spurs feature young pieces like Kawhi Leonard and a point guard who is very much in his prime, they still represent the old guard. And while other Western Conference teams are emerging, the youth of the Thunder still makes them the young challengers. 

    Remember, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka are all 24 years old. They have a lot of quality years left in the tank, and they grew up watching the Spurs dominate the league time and time again. 

    That isn't something that just goes away. 

6. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Matchups This Season

    November 7 at Houston

    January 8 at Houston

    February 19 at Los Angeles

    April 8 at Los Angeles

     

    It's all about the man in the picture. 

    Dwight Howard has single-handedly sparked one of the league's top rivalries with his decision to leave the Los Angeles Lakers for the Houston Rockets. Just to clarify, that's something that no one does. 

    Historically, marquee free agents go to Los Angeles. And when they get there, they tend to stay for a long time, basically until they've exhausted the management's patience with their inevitably declining skills. They simply don't leave by choice. 

    Except that Dwight did. 

    Turned off by the constant turmoil, the coaching staff being in a state of flux and possibly by the sheer presence of Kobe Bryant, Howard decided that he'd had enough. Recruited by general manager Slim Thug Daryl Morey, the league's top center (when healthy) instead decided to spurn the Purple and Gold for the Rockets. 

    The Lakers aren't going to let him forget about that easily. 

5. Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

    Matchups This Season

    November 18 at Los Angeles

    December 5 at Memphis

    February 21 at Memphis

     

    At this point, is it safe to assume that Blake Griffin starts quivering as soon as he sees a picture of Zach Randolph? Is it possible that he breaks out in a cold sweat when he hears "Z-Bo" uttered by one of his friends? 

    The Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies played one of the most memorable postseason series in years during the 2012 playoffs, including a historic comeback after the Grizzlies were basically left for dead. But the Grizz would get revenge this past year, manhandling the Clippers thanks to a complete and utter disappearance from both Blake and DeAndre Jordan. 

    It almost feels inevitable that the two will play in the postseason once more. It's just become a staple in our NBA lives at this point. 

    However, even the regular-season contests will be heated now. There's too much vitriol built up in the veins of the established studs of these two squads, especially since all of the prominent pieces are staying put. 

4. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    Matchups This Season

    October 29 at Los Angeles Lakers

    January 10 at Los Angeles Clippers

    March 6 at Los Angeles Lakers

    April 6 at Los Angeles Clippers

     

    This is the season that we finally experience the true changing of the guard in Los Angeles. 

    While the Lakers will always be the more popular team in Hollywood thanks to their enormous fanbase and the number of championship banners hanging in the rafters, they're clearly the second-best squad that calls the Staples Center home for the 2013-14 season. 

    The Clippers moved past the Lakers last season, and they'll cement the higher place in the Western Conference standings this year. I've predicted multiple times that LAC will emerge as the No. 1 seed in the West, and I'm sticking by that. 

    I hate to break it to Lakers fans, but the No. 1 seed is not even a remote possibility. They have a better shot at winning the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes then emerging as the top seed in the conference. 

    But the Lake Show won't give up the keys to Los Angeles that easily. Even though they'll be significantly outclassed in the talent department, you can rest assured that they'll make the Clippers work for it. 

3. Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Matchups This Season

    December 10 at Indiana

    December 18 at Miami

    March 26 at Indiana

    April 11 at Miami

     

    Now we're going to turn it up another notch. 

    The 2013 Eastern Conference Finals were simply amazing. There's no other way to describe them, as the games were close and it truly came down to the wire. The Indiana Pacers tested the Miami Heat more than ever before, and it was only LeBron James going into "Cleveland mode" that enabled the eventual champions to pull away. 

    Now they're set up to do battle again. 

    Each of the four regular-season matchups will be boiling over with intensity. The Heat have a bull's-eye on their back each and every night (it goes with the territory for a back-to-back champion), but that bull's-eye will be pulsating on Indiana nights. 

    The Pacers are in position to truly become the best team in the Eastern Conference. They weren't far off the mark in 2012-13, and now they'll be getting back Danny Granger and upgrading the bench, along with the expected development of the young players. 

    But to be the best, you have to beat the best. And that's where the Heat come into the picture. 

     

2. New York Knicks vs. Brooklyn Nets

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Matchups This Season

    December 5 at Brooklyn

    January 20 at New York

    April 2 at New York

    April 15 at Brooklyn

     

    B/R's Grant Hughes has the latest scoop on the ongoing feud between the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks. They've been bantering throughout the summer, and, quite frankly, it's been hilarious. Not because they're saying funny things, but because it's rather pathetic banter. 

    I'm just waiting for this to devolve into "your mom" jokes. 

    But while the feud is SMH-worthy, the rivalry itself isn't. 

    These two franchises played a set of incredibly memorable games during the Nets' first season in the Barclays Center, and the rivalry is only going to continue heating up. After just one season of legitimate competition between the two, we can already drop the "burgeoning" tag. 

    Jason Kidd leaving the Knicks for the joys of retirement and then immediately becoming the head coach of the Nets only helps. Brooklyn trading for Paul Pierce (who loves playing against the Knicks), Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry helps as well. 

    You need to circle every game these two play on your calendar and then keep your fingers crossed throughout the season, hoping and praying for a postseason matchup. 

1. Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Matchups This Season

    October 29 at Miami

    December 5 at Chicago

    February 23 at Miami

    March 9 at Chicago

     

    After the Miami Heat won the title for the second year in the row, Joakim Noah had the following to say, courtesy of For the Win's Laken Litman

    At first I said I didn’t care, but I was lying to myself. I was driving in my car and I just didn’t feel good about it at all after they won.

    Well you know what? It’s going to be extra motivation to work extra hard in the offseason and I feel like we’ll be the team that beats them next year.

    Or how about when the center said, "We don’t like them, they don’t like us"?

    It's not exactly breaking news that the Chicago Bulls and Heat don't care for each other. Some of the Bulls players have nothing but hatred coursing through their veins when they see Miami popping up on the schedule. 

    Now that Derrick Rose is back and ready to challenge LeBron James for MVP again, the Bulls are one of the truly elite teams in the Eastern Conference. They'll be doing everything possible to prevent Miami from advancing to the NBA Finals once again. 

    Let's allow Jimmy Butler to take it away, per NBC Chicago's Bryan Crawford: "They're the back-to-back champions, but when you think three-peat, you think Chicago. So we can't let that happen."

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