The revised NBA schedule was officially released by the NBA Tuesday. It features a 66 game itenerary – 48 conference games and 18 non-conference games – that will start December 25 and end April 26.
The Christmas Day agenda obviously heads the marquee both because it finally starts the season and because it provides several scintillating matchups. The morning starts off with the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks, followed by the Mavericks raising their championship banner and squaring off with the Heat in a Finals rematch. Then the Los Angeles Lakers (or some semblance of their current roster) will host Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls, and the Orlando Magic, with or without Dwight Howard, will head to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder. The night is topped off with Blake Griffin and the Clippers facing the Golden State Warriors in Oakland.
But Christmas isn’t the only day featuring big NBA matchups. Here is a look at some of the must-see events on the calendar:
Dec 26 – Grizzlies at Spurs - A rematch of Memphis’ first round upset last year.
Dec 27 – Celtics at Heat - The big three against the big four.
Dec 28 – Thunder at Grizzlies – A resumption of last year’s electrifying second round series.
Jan 6 – Bulls at Magic – A matchup between last year’s MVP and (assuming Howard is still in Orlando) the runner-up.
Jan 11 – Mavericks at Celtics - The defending champs face a perennial contender.
Jan 11 – Heat at Clippers – LeBron James and Blake Griffin, perhaps the two biggest athletic freaks in the league, collide.
Jan 14 – Nets at Jazz – Deron Williams returns to Utah for the first time since his trade last year.
Jan 16 – Mavericks at Lakers – The first chance for the Lakers to redeem themselves after an embarassing exit at the hands of the Mavs in last season’s playoffs.
Jan 17 – Spurs at Heat – The aging Spurs try to prove they can still compete with the league’s elite.
Jan 20 – Lakers at Magic – This could be Dwight Howard’s return to Orlando in a Lakers uniform, or a high tension atmosphere with anticipation of such a deal.
Jan 20 – Timberwolves at Clippers – Ricky Rubio’s national television debut.
Jan 21 – Nuggets at Knicks – The first time (and only time this year) Carmelo Anthony will face his former team.
Jan 24 – Trail Blazers at Grizzlies – Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay both want to prove they are fully healed from injury.
Feb 1 – Thunder at Mavericks – A rematch of last season’s Western Conference Finals.
Feb 4 – Nuggets at Blazers – By this time, maybe the other half of Denver’s roster will be back from China.
Feb 5 – Grizzlies at Celtics – Z-Bo goes head to head with KG. Sparks will fly.
Feb 8 – Clippers at Cavaliers – A matchup between last year’s rookie of the year Griffin and this year’s number one pick Kyrie Irving. The matchup has added intrigue because the Irving selection was made with the Clips’ traded away lottery pick.
Feb 9 – Lakers at Celtics – Continuation of the sport’s best rivalry.
Feb 10 – Lakers at Knicks - The fifth game of the Lakers’ six game, 10 night “Grammy Road Trip.” Despite the hectic schedule, expect Kobe Bryant to attempt his usual show at the Garden.
Feb 12 - Bulls at Celtics – It’s not Jordan vs Bird, but Rose vs Rondo is always entertaining.
Feb 20 – Hawks at Bulls – Atlanta tries to finally make a move into the NBA’s elite
Feb 23 - Knicks at Heat – Could it be the Knicks’ “own big three” of Amar’e, Melo and (newly acquired) CP3 against Miami’s tough trio?
Feb 29 – Bulls at Spurs – Last year’s top two regular season teams.
Mar 4 – Heat at Lakers- LeBron vs Kobe. Could be super-team vs super-team.
Mar 7 – Hawks at Heat – Expectations were different, but both teams hope to improve on a disappointing 2010-11 season.
Mar 12 – Celtics at Clippers – The Blake Show could actually be playing for a playoff berth this year.
Mar 13 - Heat at Magic - The battle of Florida may have a slightly different flavor pending Orlando’s roster moves.
Mar 17 – Spurs at Mavericks – The Texas two step pits first ballot HOF’ers Dirk and Duncan against one another.
Mar 25 – Heat at Thunder – OKC has talent in the right places to exploit Miami’s weaknesses.
Mar 31 – Kings at Nets – Possibly the last meeting between the two teams before each is in a new city.
Apr 1 – Bulls at Thunder – The two most explosive point guards in the league go head to head.
Apr 4 – Lakers at Clippers – The Clippers have actually gained, though slightly, on their in-town rivals in terms of popularity and publicity.
Apr 8 – Bulls at Knicks – Great defense vs explosive offense at a crucial time of year.
Apr 13 – Mavericks at Trail Blazers – The Mavs could be fighting for home court while the Blazers could be fighting for a playoff berth.
Apr 19 – Bulls at Heat – A rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals could also be the game that decides home court this year.
Apr 22 – Thunder at Lakers – A matchup with potentially serious playoff implications the last week of the season. And OKC always gives the Lakers trouble.