The full schedule for the 2017/2018 NBA season hasn’t even been out for a week and fans are already preparing their narratives for the upcoming season. With all-star caliber players finding themselves in new jerseys, there’s bound to be a few awkward reunions in this year’s quest for the Larry O’Brien trophy. With each team’s quest to the NBA Finals set to start on Oct. 17, here are some of the most intriguing hardwood matchups to look out for.
East side revenge: Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, Oct. 17
The NBA season wastes no time getting to the good stuff. As part of the opening day slate of games, we will get to see the new look Boston Celtics seek their revenge against the reigning Eastern Conference champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers. One of this off-season’s largest transactions saw Gordon Hayward trade in his Utah Jazz jersey to sport that of the Celtics. Hayward’s services didn’t come cheap, however, as they were forced to part ways with the team’s best perimeter defender in Avery Bradley. On top of this, the Celtics made a blockbuster trade late in the off-season, acquiring former disgruntled Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving for last season’s leading scorer Isaiah Thomas as well as forward Jae Crowder and a 2018 first round pick from the Brooklyn Nets. Kyrie made it clear that he wasn’t in favour of playing with LeBron anymore, saying that he wanted to be a franchise player. The NBA couldn’t have asked for a better opening night game, as Kyrie and his new squad will seek revenge against the King.
Battle of the rooks: Philadelphia 76ers vs. L.A. Lakers, Nov. 24
Lonzo Ball has been one of the most polarizing figures to enter the league in recent memory. From his $495 ZO2’s from Big Baller Brand to his father Lavar’s antics on the sidelines and after games, Ball has developed a large fan base and an equally big group of haters. One of the Ball’s biggest tests will come early on in the season, as he and the Lakers will play host to fellow rookie Markelle Fultz and the Philadelphia 76ers. The narrative for this game basically writes itself: Fultz and Ball both play the same position and went #1 and #2 respectively in this year’s NBA draft. This will mark the first time Fultz and Ball have played against one another at any level, starting the first chapter in what’s expected to be a heated rivalry for years to come.
Rated PG13: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Indiana Pacers Dec. 13
At the beginning of July, the NBA’s rumor mill was churning at full speed, with a handful of different names being linked to different teams across the league. One of those was former Indiana Pacers star Paul George, whose name was brought amongst the league’s contenders. With links to Cleveland and his hometown of Los Angeles, teams were scared to pull the trigger on a trade involving George due to his reluctance to sign a long term contract. That all changed when news broke that George would be taking his talents to Oklahoma City to team up with reigning MVP Russell Westbrook. As the face of the franchise at the time, Pacers fans were devastated that their superstar chose to up and leave the team in the blink of an eye. Pacers fans will have the chance to either boo or cheer for the franchise’s former face as George, Westbrook and friends will make their way into the Hoosier state on Dec. 13.
Let Round 4 commence: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors, Dec. 25
As part of the NBA’s tradition of saving some of the year’s best games for Christmas Day, this year’s holiday schedule will feature the first rematch of this year’s NBA Finals, as LeBron James and the Cavaliers will take on Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors for the first time in the new season. With many experts expecting a Cavs vs. Warriors finals for the fourth year in a row, James and company will look to even the score against the Warriors, who are currently winning the titles match 2-1. As a whole, Cleveland will be an interesting team to keep tabs on during the season, with news of point guard Kyrie Irving wanting out of The Land and sources close to James saying that this could potentially be the last year he’s with the team due to his differences with Cavs’ management. Regardless of what’s happening behind closed doors, it will be worth watching who will claim first blood in this year’s Cavs vs. Warriors conflict.
A Hollywood ending: Houston Rockets vs. L.A. Clippers, Jan. 15
As one of the more exciting teams in recent memory, the Lob City Clippers kept fans on the edge of their seats, with Chris Paul exhibiting this world-class passing ability alongside the Ariel prowess of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Despite this, the team’s exciting play style never translated to post season success. In all of Paul’s years with the Clippers, the team never made it past the second round of the playoffs. With his championship window closing, Paul chose to join MVP runner-up James Harden down in the lone star state. With fans waiting to see how Harden and Paul will work together, the duo will march their way into La La Land to take on Paul’s former team on Jan. 15.
The North sends its regards: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Chicago Bulls, Feb. 9
Speaking of big names changing places, this off season saw former Chicago Bulls superstar Jimmy Butler reunite with his former coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota. In an attempt to go all in and make the playoffs this season, Butler and Thibodeau brought in one of their former band members in Taj Gibson, as well as former Pacers guard Jeff Teague to round out the roster. With one of its most complete rosters in recent memory, the Timberwolves will march into the Windy City on Feb. 9 to take on the aforementioned Bulls.
The Book of Gordon: Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz, March 24
After seasons of mediocrity, the Utah Jazz finally tasted success after beating the aforementioned Clippers in the playoffs last season. Despite eventually losing to the Warriors in the second round, Jazz fans viewed the season as a success and a step in the right direction. That all came to a screeching halt when, as I mentioned earlier, Gordon Hayward jumped ship to join the Boston Celtics. Regarded as the team’s best player, the Jazz will have to find a way to compete in the ever competitive Western Conference. As one of the later returns in the season, Hayward will make his return to Salt Lake City on March 24.