Today the NBA released its 2010-2011 regular season schedule in its entirety and already there are games worth circling on the calendar.
Old faces in new places, rivalries to renew and bitter grudge matches dominate the Top 20 games you need to watch this season. There are the games we all expect to watch but there also may be some other games on the schedule that are a bit under the radar. Nevertheless, here are 20 games you need clear the calendar for.
A rematch of the 2009 NBA Finals should continue to be a big ratings pull for the NBA. They are two of the most talented teams with two of the best young big men in the game and stars all over the court. What's not to like in this matchup?
The Magic want to get back to the Finals. There is no better way to build confidence than versus the Lakers.
Orlando travels to Los Angeles on March 14th.
In a matchup of what should be two of the three best teams in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls and Celtics feature two of the best young point guards in the game and a similar roster that features a good matchup in the paint (Garnett v. Boozer/Noah) and on the perimeter.
The Bulls finished eighth in the East last year but are expected to make a big jump this upcoming season. The Celtics came within minutes of their second title in three years.
But if the Bulls want to show they are legitimate title contenders, want to strip themselves of the tag of being young and not quite ready, beating the Celtics should be one of their top priorities.
It's not until late January that the Celtics and Lakers have their first rematch of this year's NBA Finals, but What's not to like here? These two teams just went to the last moments of Game 7 of the NBA Finals have enhanced the best rivalry in the NBA. Both teams made necessary tweaks to their roster and look ready for runs deep in their respective conferences. Lakers-Celtics always sells.
The Lakers make their return trip to Boston on February 10th.
On one side is the "next generation Big Three" with Miami's LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. On the other side is the more veteran "Big Three" of the Celtics with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett.
The Heat roster is version 2.0 of what the Celtics built and ultimately achieved with their title in 2008. The Heat want the same but still need to go through teams like Boston.
One x-factor in this matchup will be point guard Rajon Rondo, but do the aging Celtics have enough in their legs to keep up with the younger Heat?
We'll find out on opening night, November 11th, February 13th and April 10th just how well these two teams match up against one another.
What the NBA hopes will develop into a more notable rivalry in the league, the Heat and Magic offer two of the best young rosters in the league.
The Magic are likely the team that suffered the most by the Heat's offseason acquisitions. Now, Orlando must show that despite its relatively lesser moves, it still has the firepower to remain as not only the best team in the state of Florida, but the better team in the Eastern Conference.
These two sides lock up on October 29th, November 24th (night before Thanksgiving), February 3rd and March 3rd
Some of us think about Michael v. Magic and the 1991 NBA Finals and what CAN be when these two teams meet on the same floor.
The Bulls now finally have the pieces in place to bring that aura back to this quasi-rivalry. Carlos Boozer gives the Bulls a double-double presence to matchup with Pau Gasol and gives the Bulls more size alongside Joakim Noah in the post.
Chicago will still have a tough time matching up with Kobe one-on-one, but the Bulls roster hasn't been this team in quite some time. Bulls-Lakers should return to national prominence with national telecasts of their matchups on November 23rd and December 10th
A matchup of the two teams which heavily pursued LeBron James. The team he chose versus the team many analysts and sports reporters believed he should have chosen. These are expected to be the top two teams in the Eastern Conference and a glimpse at the Eastern Conference Finals.
One will be hard pressed to find more talent on the floor in the East than on January 15th and February 24th.
Circle the date and get your popcorn ready for December 2nd because that is when LeBron James returns to Cleveland.
The Cavaliers likely won't put up much of a fight, but NBA fans—and especially Cleveland fans—cannot wait for the Heat to walk on the floor at Quicken Loans Arena.
Heat-Lakers is now the biggest marquee game in the league and will played on Christmas Day. They are the two teams most expect to matchup in the 2011 NBA Finals. It is a game that will feature the three best players in the league and the Heat showing their new might against the two-time defending NBA champions.
The Lakers make their trip to Miami on March 10th.
We saw how entertaining this series was when the Thunder and Lakers went to six games in the first round of the playoffs last season. The Thunder get their first crack at testing their new-found might against the Lakers on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The Lakers travel to Oklahoma City on February 27th while the Thunder make one last trip to Hollywood on April 10th.
The NBA gives us a second helping of young, talented teams when the Thunder and Bulls meet on the second night of the season. Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose are two rising stars in this league which is why it is no surprise the league will have them square off on night two.
Oklahoma City travels to Chicago on December 6th.
Carmelo Anthony gets his first look and what he may have this time next season in New York when the Nuggets host the Miami Heat on January 13th. It won't be quite the trio on the floor like when the Heat play the Lakers, but Carmelo, Dwyane Wade and LeBron on the same floor will catch headlines.
The Nuggets travel to Miami on March 19th.
What's not to like about the two most explosive point guards in recent college basketball history, two number one overall picks, and two projects of John Calipari squaring off for the first time. Breakout the stopwatches because the speed at the point guard position in this game may be something unlike we've ever seen.
Washington goes to Chicago on December 22nd, Chicago returns to the nation's capital on February 28th and Washington returns to the Windy City on March 15th.
Two teams with similar goals of quickly climbing their respective conferences square off on the third night of the season. This game will feature two of the best young point guards in the league in Derrick Rose and Brandon Roy with plenty of size in the front court.
Chicago makes its trip to Portland on February 7th.
The Lakers are the "now" in the Western Conference but the Blazers and Thunder are the future. We get a look at that future on November 4th when Durant and co. travel to the Rose City.
The Blazers return the favor by heading south on November 12th. The two teams match up again later in the season with games on March 27th and April 1st.
Chris Paul has put his trade demands behind him and thus we get a chance to see him and Kevin Durant share the court early in the season. The Thunder want to keep the momentum of their 2009-2010 season going while the Hornets wanted to put a disappointing season behind them.
The teams meet again on December 10th, January 24th and February 2nd.
We get a first look at a rematch of the 2010 Western Conference Finals when the Lakers travels to the desert on October 29th. The Suns have new faces with Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress filling the space of the departed Amar'e Stoudemire. It will be interesting to see how this newly organized Suns team fares against Kobe and company.
The teams meet again on November 14th, January 5th and March 22nd.
The NBA offers another marquee Christmas Day game when the Nuggets travel to Oklahoma City in what may be a look at the two teams racing for the Northwest Division title come early April. Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony is one of the premier one-on-one matchups in the league.
Not only do we get to see that on Christmas Day, but January 19th, April 5th and April 8th as well when the division may be on the line.
This game on the season's second night is highlighted for two very specific reasons-the returns of former number one overall picks Blake Griffin and Greg Oden.
Both missed all of last season with knee injuries and there is a lot of hype and hope surrounding their respective returns when the teams match up what will be both of their first games of the season.
The Clippers and Blazers meet again on December 5th and January 20th.