The 2022-23 NBA schedule was released Wednesday (which part of it wasn’t leaked anyway), and of course we’re all going through it, circling the matchups that stand out. Here are 10 to mark on your calendar in the first six weeks.
opening night. LeBron James will watch as Stephen Curry earns his fourth championship ring, equal to his own total. The race for 5th place is on and Curry, in charge of another title-winning squad, has the upper hand to get it. If the Lakers have Kyrie Irving at this point, it’s going to be a headline matchup for different reasons than Curry vs. James. These will be two championship contenders going head-to-head with all the intrigue of a revamped Lakers roster and the reunion of Kyrie and LeBron.
The opener for both teams and a must for several reasons. Presumably, it will mark Zion Williamson’s return to the pitch. The same goes for Ben Simmons. Also, the Pelicans are one of the teams believed to be in the mix to act for Kevin Durant. Can you imagine that trade has gone down by this point and Durant opens the season against the Nets in Brooklyn? If not, and Durant and Kyrie Irving are active for the Nets, this will be our first look at the on-court dynamic of the Durant-Irving-Simmons trio.
You can bet the Suns have some unfinished business with Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, who grabbed Phoenix with a 33-point bludgeoner in Game 7 of the Conference Semifinals last season. It turns out that Phoenix was dealing with a COVID outbreak. Also in October Chris Paul plays to win. Luka is a must watch on TV. This is going to be a fight.
4. Clippers at Lakers (October 20)
Another chance to see what this Lakers roster looks like, but more importantly should see the return of Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers enter this season as a major league title contender if Leonard is still an elite superstar. This is our first chance to see how long it will take for him to return to that status after missing all of last season to rehab a cruciate ligament rupture.
If you haven’t heard, Rudy Gobert is now playing for Minnesota, who are going to be one of the most interesting teams this season. Who knows if Donovan Mitchell will still wear a jazz uniform? If so, you can bet he and Gobert want to bring out the best in themselves.
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6. Nuggets at Warriors (October 21)
This isn’t Denver’s opener (who is against the Jazz), but it is the Warriors, so this is a great time to brace for the return of Jamal Murray and possibly Michael Porter Jr. Personally, I’m just as excited to see the Nuggets this season as any team. This is a legitimate championship contender. Nikola Jokic has a case as the league’s best player and having Murray back at his side brings together an elite duo that’s a lot of fun.
The Sixers had a great offseason with the additions of PJ Tucker and De’Anthony Melton, but this is all about James Harden and whether his decline last season was the beginning of the end or a year-long blip. The Sixers bet big bucks ($68.8 million over two years) that he’s still pretty darn elite. These are two teams with their sights set on winning the title. On its own, Giannis vs. Embiid is never a bad matchup to clear the calendar.
The Ball Shell. Lonzo returns for the Bulls and LaMelo comes off an all-star nod. Both teams are a fun watch, and it’s worth making some time for the two brothers to compete. You will definitely see them guarding each other.
Trae Young at Madison Square Garden. Enough said. The Hawks made a big deal in taking on Dejounte Murray this summer and this will be an early look at how he and Young will fit together and as a potential bonus, the Knicks could have Donovan Mitchell by this point. After gutting the Knicks in the 2021 playoffs, Young returned to MSG last season and amassed 45 points. The man knows how to seize the limelight.
10. Nets at the 76ers (November 22)
Let’s all pray to the basketball gods that Ben Simmons will play for the Nets when he returns to Philadelphia. If he is, this will be a crazy atmosphere. Will Simmons wither under the heat or turn it into fuel? This almost wouldn’t even count as a basketball game. It will feel more like a reality show.