2010-2011 NBA Schedule: Big Stars in New Places Against Their Old Team
With a tumultuous off-season all but over and the 2010-2011 schedule released today, it's time to examine the upcoming season's most compelling games. It's a fair bet that LeBron's return to Cleveland will be a sight to see, but what about the other player movement? With so many stars changing area codes, the approaching season will have no shortage of drama. Without further ado, here is the inside scoop.
10. Monday December 27, 2010 Portland at Utah
In an off-season dominated by the LeBacle, the feel-good story of Wes Matthews has slipped through the cracks.
An undrafted free agent, Matthews managed to average 9.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists on 48 percent shooting while emerging as a lock-down defender. His reward? A lucrative five-year contract worth $34 million.
Once viewed as a mere afterthought, Matthews should come across more minutes in Portland. In addition, he will match up against Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and the surplus elite wings of the Western Conference.
It should be interesting to see whether or not the Jazz faithful recognize the incredible journey and cheer on the hardworking Marquette product. Or will they boo him like any other opponent?
Either way, Matthews’ story shows how hard work can help defy expectations. His tale needs to be told.
9. Friday February 25, 2011 Phoenix at Toronto
A year after spurning the Trail Blazers to sign a five-year, $53 million contract with Toronto, the Raptors realized what a mistake they had made.
Most members of the media believed that Turkoglu was untradeable based on his ripe age (31) and over-sized contract.
Strangely enough, the Suns were convinced to absorb his contract in exchange for fellow under-performer Leandro Barbosa. February 25th will mark the first time either player face their former team, and Hedo shouldn't expect much love from the fans upon his return.
“People have to realize something is wrong with that organization and nobody wants to go there any more,” said Turkoglu following the trade.
During the season, Turkoglu was criticized not only for his poor production but also for his off-court behavior. The Turkish born forward was benched back in March due to a “stomach virus” which turned out was due to over-partying. In the real world? A hangover.
Toronto fans should be happy to see Hedo and his massive contract thousands of miles away, but that won't stop them from berating their former free agent coup.
8. Sunday February 13, 2011 LA Lakers at Orlando
A decade ago this game would be a clear cut number one. The Big Diesel in his prime taking on his former teammates in Orlando. It would certainly be a sight to behold.
Cut to the present and the game still holds major ramifications. Defying odds, the exasperating and infuriating Matt Barnes joined the defending champs for a reduced salary.
Anybody who saw him fake a pass at Kobe's face last season knows how improbable this series of events is. Nonetheless, Barnes will take to the court against his former team in what could very well be a finals’ preview.
Only this time, it will be Vince Carter bearing the wrath of Barnes questionable tactics.
7. Wednesday November 10, 2010 Golden State at New York
On July 8, David Lee was dealt from the Knicks to the Warriors for the package of Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike, Ronny Turiaf and a second-round pick.
Known for his incredible work ethic (particularly on the glass), Lee was a fan favorite in New York. That said, his lax defense made him an unlikely candidate to start alongside recent acquisition, and fellow defensively impaired big man, Amare Stoudemire.
Many in New York are lamenting this deal, even if it did bring uber-talented forward Anthony Randolph to town. When he returns to the Big Apple, I expect that Lee will be received like a King with a long standing ovation before he hits the court.
And while the game itself includes a match-up of unlikely playoff teams, these two high octane offenses should keep fans interested with their lofty scoring totals and complete disregard for protecting the hoop.
6. Wednesday February 9, 2011 Chicago at Utah
With Carlos Boozer leaving Salt Lake City for the Windy City with teammate Kyle Korver following in suit, there is much intrigue to this match-up.
For years, Boozer had indicated that he yearned for a bigger market. Many speculated Miami or New York as potential landing spots, but Chicago may be his ideal home.
With Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, the Bulls have a formidable core of players capable of competing in the top-heavy Eastern Conference.
While Al Jefferson has quickly replaced Boozer as the low-post threat for the Jazz, fans will not be so quick to forget Carlos.
The Boozer chant will be cut short with less euphonic boos as these two teams fight for playoff positions in their respective conferences.
These are two very similarly built teams with dynamic, young point guards and terrific post presences. The Bulls addition of Ronnie Brewer only adds fuel to the fire as they further resemble the Jazz 2.0.
5. Friday January 7, 2011 NY Knicks at Phoenix
After spending his entire career with the Suns, Amare Stoudemire has moved on to the bright lights of NYC. Within the process, he has left his former team in hot water. With little to no inside presence, the Suns will struggle to compete in the big-man dominated Western Conference.
My prognosis? Mixed feelings from a frustrated Phoenix crowd.
In an off-season marked by overspending (Rudy Gay and Joe Johnson come to mind), Amare wisely spurned the Suns for a vast guaranteed offer from New York (five years and $100 million).
With Robin Lopez and Lou Amundson as the lone paint protectors in Phoenix, Amare should go off against his former team. He will quickly realize though, that Raymond Felton is no Steve Nash.
Expect a mammoth offensive output from both teams, and hopefully? A warm reception for a former player who meant so much to the success of his one-time team.
4. Wednesday February 16, 2011 Miami at Toronto
While this marks Chris Bosh's first time returning to his old city, it follows two games in Miami against his former Toronto team.
LeBron may have stolen headlines with his over the top, backstabbing decision; however, many in Toronto shared a similar sentiment to those in Cleveland.
In fact, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo accused Bosh of mailing it in down the stretch; a statement that caused Bosh great ire.
“I play this game as hard as I can every time I step on the court,” Bosh said. “On the back of my jersey it says ‘Bosh’ … The Boshes are hard workers. We have a lot of pride in what we do, in our jobs and in life.”
Hopefully fans remember all that Bosh meant to this franchise and not the bitter words of his former employer. Either way, expect a lop-sided win for Miami as this game showcases both the leagues best and worst teams.
Oh, and by the way Mr. Colangelo, Bosh averaged 24, 11 and 2.5 last year. If he can do that while mailing it in, imagine what he can do after hearing your words of motivation.
3. Thursday November 11, 2010 Boston at Miami
Yes, this marks Jermaine O'Neal's return to Miami. And yes, Eddie House will be facing his former team. Not that anybody cares.
It also marks Shaq's return to a franchise he helped carry to its’ last championship, but that's not why people should watch. This early season game will shed light on the balance of power in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics have been to two NBA finals in the past three years, winning once. Their big three have been overshadowed by the massive three in Miami.
And while the Heat and the Celts will have already met on opening day, this game offers a better barometer of performance as both teams will have had over a month to gel.
Rajon Rondo has been among the most vocal about Miami, adamant in is stance that they have to earn his respect by winning.
As a diehard Celtics fan, I hope he doesn't end up eating his words.
2. Sunday January 30, 2011 Boston at LA Lakers
It was almost impossible to resist ranking this game number one. It's an NBA finals re-match. It's the best rivalry in basketball.
It features the two most dominant franchises. It's the Big Green Mile's return to Los Angeles.
The game's still five months away yet I can't stop thinking about this duel. I'm almost as exited as this guy.
Just look at the match-ups.
Shaq vs. Bynum. Gasol vs. Garnett. Pierce vs. Artest and Kobe vs. Ray.
In the words of the immortal Bob Costas, “You're excited? Feel these nipples!”
1. Thursday December 2, 2010 Miami at Cleveland
Was there ever any question about this year's most anticipated game? We all watched the decision, assuming there was no way LeBron could go on TV and rip the heart out of every single Cavs fan. Boy were we wrong.
Ever since Judas...I mean LeBron, decided to flee Cleveland for the scenic views on South Beach, we have been awaiting this game.
We saw the iconic Witness mural torn down from its prime location next to the Q. We witnessed Cavs owner Dan Gilbert absolutely blast the now dethroned King.
We even observed fans turn on an individual who donned LeBron's new Heat jersey at an Indians game. Imagine what will happen when King James comes back to the Kingdom he ruled for seven years.
It will be bedlam. Chaos. Mayhem. It will be one of the most unique and well-watched sporting events ever! It crosses boundaries from athletics to pop culture.
It's not simply another game. It's a circus. At first I was disappointed by the wait. I assumed it would occur opening day. But imagine it.
As the season wears on and the Heat sit atop the conference while the lowly Cavs dwell in the basement, Cavs fans will grow more and more enraged until it all explodes on Dec. 2.
And a suggestion for commissioner stern; you might want to have the national guard on stand-by because things could get nasty.