The start of the National Basketball Association season is now only a couple weeks away — a reality that feels absolutely ridiculous to write in early December. But with the first half of the schedule releasing late last week, my excitement is once again at a high.
There are a few select games and moments I am particularly anxious to see. And while I could very well just break down all the Christmas games for this list, I’ll lump the NBA’s Christmas slate into just one event I am incredibly excited to follow this season.
Kyrie Irving might actually play in the TD Garden, and the Kevin Durant versus Jayson Tatum matchup is sure to bring fireworks. The current face of the league, LeBron James, facing off against the league’s future, Luka Dončić, will be a must-watch bout.
And the Los Angeles Clippers versus Denver Nuggets game just has all sorts of fun angles. Will we see Jamal Murray play like he did in the bubble? Will we see the Clippers from the first four games of the conference semifinals, or the last three? Which of these two teams is a legitimate No. 2 in the Western Conference?
The NBA’s Christmas games will be a load of fun and will hopefully provide a bit more clarity about the league’s murky contender landscape.
Fortunately, we’ll still get plenty of eye-popping basketball before Christmas. The first two days of the season, Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, are filled with great games. And the opening game I’m most excited for is the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns matchup.
Dončić has the opportunity to really set the tone for a season in which he’ll be vying for MVP. Even disregarding any sort of outside context about what Dončić represents for the league and the game, the Mavericks star is pure magic on the court. And everyone should be watching him.
On the other side of the court, we’ll get to see Chris Paul make his Suns debut. Don’t forget: Paul will be helping out a team that won eight consecutive games in the bubble when we last saw them.
Considering Chris Paul and Devin Booker are leading a squad with Deandre Ayton in the middle — and bunches of talent on the wings — the Suns will be one of the most fun teams to watch all season.
The NBA can be frustrating at times. Not counting NBA television games, the New Orleans Pelicans have 14 national TV games while the Atlanta Hawks have just one. I understand the league is really pushing Zion Williamson as one of its leading stars, but that dichotomy makes no sense.
Williamson has played 24 career games. And even though Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball can be exciting on the court, the rest of the roster isn’t all that compelling.
On the other hand, the Hawks are led by one of the best and most dynamic scorers in the league: Trae Young. John Collins can be an electric three-level scorer. Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish are all young players with some level of intrigue in their game.
Atlanta also added a talented scorer in Danilo Gallinari, and they’ve improved with the additions of Kris Dunn and Rajon Rondo. The Hawks deserve more national TV games, so I’ll definitely be watching when they play the Mavericks on ESPN in February.
The last couple games I can’t wait for are ultimately about star power and key matchups.
The Golden State Warriors will meet the Portland Trail Blazers on New Year’s Day, and hopefully we’ll get to watch Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry exchange 40-foot shot after 40-foot shot all game long.
Then, on Feb. 18, LeBron James and Kevin Durant will meet for the first time since Christmas Day of 2018. The last time they met before that was in the NBA Finals.
These two are legends, and the best of the best. I can’t wait to see them meet, especially with Durant on a new squad.