NBA schedule release: 40 games I’m looking forward to in 2023-24


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They said it couldn’t be done, but once again, the NBA is holding an 82-game regular season. This time, however, we have the added twist of an in-season tournament, which begins Nov. 3. The league announced the initial group play schedule within the past week, and now the full regular-season schedule is out for all to see.

Thanks to some recent reporting from our Shams Charania, we’ve known the opening night and Christmas slate that everybody loves to analyze for a little while now. In this space, however, we’ll take a look at some big-time and interesting matchups to circle on the old calendar. Do people still write on calendars? Or are you putting stuff into the calendar on your phone? Either way, take note of these 40 games!

(Author’s note: Inevitably, I will have left a matchup off this list by the time you read it. I promise I left it out because I hate your favorite team. Still, toss the games you’re most looking forward to watching down in the comments. Also, I didn’t even begin to guess when James Harden returns to Philly because who knows if he gets traded?)

(Editor’s note: All times ET)

The spicy matchups

Western Conference finals rematch: Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets, Oct. 24 (7:30 p.m., TNT)

We’re tipping off the season the right way with the ring ceremony for the champion Denver Nuggets. We’ll see the banner raised and to what size furniture we can best compare to the size of the rings. Then, we’ll see the Nuggets begin their quest to try to repeat. The Lakers will try to ruin the celebration as much as they can, if that’s even possible, and try to begin to avenge the sweep the Nuggets laid down on them in last year’s conference finals. We’ll also see Nikola Jokić start a possible third MVP season while LeBron James begins the 21st season of his beyond historic career.

Culture War: Miami Heat at Boston Celtics, Oct. 27 (7:30 p.m., ESPN)

That first week of the season will give us the latest chapter in the Heat-Celtics rivalry, which has become one of the best battles of the last four seasons. The Heat eliminated the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals in the 2020 bubble. Then, the Celtics took down the Heat in seven games to go to the NBA Finals in 2022. Last season, the Heat got revenge in the conference finals while also nearly blowing a 3-0 series lead. Jimmy Butler against Jayson Tatum is must-watch TV. The Celtics boast about their history, but have only one title since 1986. The Heat came into the league in 1988 and have three. Which one will have the best chance to win the East again?

StompGate: Golden State Warriors at Sacramento Kings, Oct 27. (10 p.m., ESPN)

We won’t have to wait long to get a rematch of one of the best 2023 playoff series. Remember when Draymond Green stomped on Domantas Sabonis’ chest? Remember Stephen Curry going off for 50 in Game 7 in Sacramento to allow the Warriors to advance? Remember how excited the Kings were in getting back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006? De’Aaron Fox versus Curry will be brilliant, the Warriors also have Chris Paul and the Kings will have EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov in tow. Lots of fireworks to see.

NBA Finals rematch: Miami Heat at Denver Nuggets, Feb. 29 (10 p.m., TNT)

We have to wait until after the trade deadline to get a rematch of the 2023 NBA Finals. Sure, the five-game Nuggets series victory was a little anticlimactic, but we might see Damian Lillard as a part of the Heat squad this time. It’ll be well after the trade deadline, and Lillard is still hoping to get traded to the Heat. He’s had some fun battles with the Nuggets in the past, and adding him to Miami would make this matchup highly competitive. If a Lillard trade doesn’t happen, we’ll at least get a celebration of two very good teams.

Dame Time: Miami Heat at Portland Trail Blazers, Feb. 27 (10 p.m., TNT)

There are three possible scenarios here.

  1. Damian Lillard is still on the Blazers, and we get a lot of lead-up exposition about how the Heat were the target team and the Blazers refused to trade him to Miami. Blazers fans have been annoyed with the Heat and their fans all summer, so they’d love to rub it in their faces that Dame is still on Portland in this scenario.
  2. Dame is on the Heat after finally getting his wish, and we have a wonderful reunion of him coming back to Portland, presumably to be celebrated — and rightfully so — as he plays against his heir apparent Scoot Henderson.
  3. Dame was traded somewhere else, giving Blazers fans the opportunity to mock the Heat for not acquiring him.

PunchGate: Washington Wizards at Golden State Warriors, Dec. 22 (10 p.m., ESPN)

Jordan Poole returns to the Bay Area for the first time as a member of the Washington Wizards. Every time he’s in front of a camera or microphone, he gets asked about the Draymond Green punch from last preseason. It’s going to be talked about again leading up to this game. Poole will have full freedom with the rebuilding Wizards to do what he wants on the court, so he’s definitely going to try to hang 50 on his former team. This should be a blowout win for the Warriors, but basketball has a funny way of evening the playing field for return games like this. We’ll see how seriously the Warriors want to ruin this reunion.

Fan Favorite: Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns, Dec. 25 (10:30 p.m., ESPN)

I’m the fan with the favorite here. I loved this budding rivalry before the Suns acquired Kevin Durant (and Bradley Beal) and the Mavs got Kyrie Irving. Luka Dončić talking trash to Devin Booker and the Suns in their playoff series victory in 2022 was brilliant theater. Now, we’re adding the KD-Kyrie dynamic to it, the Suns’ quest to prove their super team dominance and a Mavs team hoping they have the squad to scare opponents again. Give me all of this matchup.

Familiar faces in new places

CP3’s debut in Golden State: Phoenix Suns at Golden State Warriors, Oct. 24 (10 p.m., TNT)

We don’t have to wait long for Chris Paul to play his former team: it’s happening as the second game on opening night when the new look super team Suns come to San Francisco. There’s so much to unpack with Paul’s Suns divorce, but our first real look at CP3 in a Warriors uniform will be fascinating. He should be coming off the bench, but he needs to talk to Steve Kerr still. On top of that, the Draymond Green-Kevin Durant-Steph Curry dynamic of this matchup is incredible.

Bradley Beal’s debut in Phoenix: Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns, Oct. 28 (10 p.m., NBATV)

We know Beal will play his first game as a Suns player in San Francisco on opening night. Then we have to wait one more game before we see him make his home debut. This will be a work in progress all season long, but that won’t stop the takes from flying. If the Suns look unstoppable with Beal and Booker sharing point duties within the rest of the Suns’ firepower, then we’ll start seeing parade routes planned on the internet. If they struggle early, it will be an indictment on assembling too many stars on one roster. Either way, it’s a fun show.

After years of trade rumors, Bradley Beal is finally out of Washington. (Geoff Burke / USA Today)

Bruce Brown returns to Denver: Indiana Pacers at Denver Nuggets, Jan. 14 (3:30 p.m.)

Brown was one of the bigger signings of the offseason, commanding well over $20 million this season with the Pacers, along with a team option for a second year. He’ll return to Denver and receive his championship ring. It’ll be a great celebration of a brief, but highly lucrative stint for Brown and the Nuggets.

New Backcourt in Houston: Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets, Oct. 29 (7 p.m.)

The Rockets will debut their new backcourt of Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks. Those two signings could account for more than $210 million in salary over the next four years if the Rockets pick up VanVleet’s third-year team option. The Rockets will also have Amen Thompson to show off after grabbing him fourth in the draft, as well as a new head coach to celebrate in Ime Udoka. Let’s see if all that results in a rare Houston win, and how quickly those wins become less spread out.

Chris Paul returns to Phoenix: Golden State Warriors at Phoenix Suns, Nov. 22 (10 p.m., ESPN)

CP3 deserves a massive ovation by the Phoenix faithful for helping turn this franchise around. The young Suns’ 8-0 run in the 2020 bubble was great and inspiring. However, it was Paul’s arrival the season after that instantly turned the Suns from a team that couldn’t get out of its own way on the court for a decade to one of the best in the NBA.

Dillon Brooks returns to Memphis: Houston Rockets at Memphis Grizzlies, Dec. 15 (8 p.m.)

Remember when Shams reported the Grizzlies wouldn’t bring back Brooks under any circumstances? It was one of the funniest pieces of breaking NBA news we’ve ever seen. Well, now Brooks is back with his new team, along with a massive bank account increase via his new deal. He’ll hope to show Memphis that it messed up by letting him go. The Grizzlies will likely let him shoot as much as he wants to achieve that goal.

Fred VanVleet returns to Toronto: Houston Rockets at Toronto Raptors, Feb. 9 (7:30 p.m.)

By the time we reached the latter portion of last season, the writing was on the wall with VanVleet’s departure in free agency. Once the rumored payday was out there, Toronto knew VanVleet wouldn’t be back. At the same time, he helped them win their first championship in 2019. Raptors fans love FVV, and they’ll show him a ton of love.

Kristaps Porziņģis returns to New York: Boston Celtics at New York Knicks, Oct. 25 (7 p.m.)

I know, I know. Porziņģis has already played for two different teams since being traded away from the Knicks, and the Celtics will be his third. But there’s still a weird thing going on with Porziņģis and some Knicks fans. With him in the hated Celtics green (by Knicks fans), we get a little extra pettiness involved in this return, assuming he recovers from an offseason foot injury.

Marcus Smart returns to Boston: Memphis Grizzlies at Boston Celtics, Feb. 4 (6 p.m., ESPN)

The Celtics are going to welcome home one of their favorite role players ever. Smart helped them to multiple conference finals appearances and a spot in the 2022 NBA Finals, and he earned a bunch of defensive accolades – most notably the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year – and whatever the Hustle Award is. The love-fest will be moving for Smart and everybody who cheers for him. I bet he has green hair for it.

John Collins returns to Atlanta: Utah Jazz at Atlanta Hawks, Feb. 27 (7:30 p.m., NBATV)

For years, John Collins’ name was front and center in NBA trade rumors. And for years, he remained a member of the Hawks anyway. Atlanta finally traded him this offseason to Utah, and he’ll make his return to see his old teammates. The Hawks game ops team should put together a tribute video, filled with Collins highlights on the court and rumored reports of him on the trade block.

Fun team showdowns for us

The battle for Los Angeles: LA Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers, Nov. 1 (10 p.m., ESPN)

I understand people outside of Los Angeles don’t really care about this matchup. It’s not even a rivalry. It’s just two teams who are supposed to be good, sharing a building for one more season before the Clippers’ new arena opens. The healthy Clippers were supposed to challenge the Lakers for city supremacy, but this potential rivalry hasn’t happened the way we hoped it would. I’ll still buy in and keep my stock in this being fun and meaningful.

Eastern Titans: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics, Nov. 22 (7:30 p.m., ESPN)

It’s Giannis against Tatum. It’s Khris Middleton against Jaylen Brown. Throw in Brook Lopez being bigger, stronger and maybe even rangier than Porziņģis and the rest of the Celtics’ frontcourt. It’s two teams that play great basketball, each trying to show they’re the baddest in the East. I love this matchup. Might even become a rivalry soon.

Eastern Rivalry: Miami Heat at Milwaukee Bucks, Oct. 30 (8 p.m.)

The Heat definitely have more of a rivalry with the Celtics, but their recent playoff battles with the Bucks have been incredible. The two teams took turns embarrassing each other in the lopsided series wins in back-to-back years. Last season, we had the Heat pull off the 8-over-1 upset in taking down the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. Milwaukee will chalk the defeat up to injuries – Antetokounmpo missed the first three games of the five-game series – but the Heat won’t take that disrespect lying down. Also, Giannis and Butler are two of the most psychotically competitive guys in the league.

Playoff Rematch: Cleveland Cavaliers at New York Knicks, Nov. 1 (7:30 p.m.)

The Cavs have better star players, and their overall roster is probably better. But the Knicks embarrassed them in the playoffs last season, leaving no doubt about which team would and should win that series. The Cavs retooled some of their supporting cast, signing players like Max Strus and Georges Niang, and now we’ll see if we can start observing a different result. Or, maybe Donovan Mitchell is always going to lose in the playoffs to Jalen Brunson?

(Worth noting: The two teams play in Cleveland the night before at 7:30 p.m. on TNT)

East Up-and-Coming: Orlando Magic at Indiana Pacers, Nov. 19 (5 p.m.)

I am legitimately excited for this matchup. I love how both teams are building their respective squads. The Pacers are stacking a lot of young talent, led by Tyrese Haliburton. The Magic have a team filled with young talent of their own, headlined by 2023 Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero. The two franchise have very different styles, with Indiana playing fast and small while the Magic prioritize size. But I believe both teams will at least make the Play-In Tournament this year.

Playoff Preview? Denver Nuggets at Minnesota Timberwolves, Nov. 1 (8 p.m.)

We saw the Nuggets knock away the Wolves with ease last postseason. We’ve seen these teams try to measure up against each other for years, before Denver far surpassed Minnesota. There’s weird stuff with Rudy Gobert and Jokić in their matchup. Karl-Anthony Towns always says some crazy stuff. Anthony Edwards going against Jamal Murray will be fun. Minnesota will want to prove itself against Denver more than any other team.

West Test: Oklahoma City Thunder at Sacramento Kings, Nov. 10 (10 p.m., In-Season Tournament Game)

The Kings aren’t quite as young as the Thunder, but these are two exciting rosters. The Thunder are hoping to make a similar leap as the Kings did last year. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander going against Fox is must-see. The Kings have a lot of scoring, and the Thunder can play some very good defense. Someday, this will be a fun playoff series.

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Domantas Sabonis looks to pass against OKC’s Kenrich Williams Luguentz Dort last season. (Alonzo Adams / USA Today)

Is this a rivalry? Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves, Jan. 16 (10 p.m., TNT)

I don’t know if it is, but I’m here for any and all Anthony Edwards matchups. When Ja Morant is back on the court, this showdown offers up two of the most exciting and dynamic offensive players the game has to offer. The Grizzlies have an awesome, solid supporting cast behind their star, while the Wolves have a weird fit with some high money big men. Both teams still want to prove themselves, and they had a contentious playoff series two postseasons ago.

West Challenge: Los Angeles Lakers at Sacramento Kings, Oct. 29 (9 p.m.)

I’m not going to pretend this matchup comes with the same passion as it had in the early 2000s, but there’s still something about these two squads squaring off that gets the nostalgia bubbling. The Lakers are the known commodity with the household names. The Kings are finally good again and boast an offense that few teams are able to think about stopping. Give me all four games between these two — and hopefully a playoff series too.

Fun player showdowns for us

LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers, Oct. 26 (10 p.m., TNT)

Amazingly, we haven’t seen these two play against each other since 2018. The NBA is trying to avoid another delay in the renewal of this matchup by starting the season with it. LeBron is 15-6 all-time against KD in the regular season. Durant is 9-5 against James in the playoffs, thanks to that run with the Warriors.

Nikola Jokić vs. Joel Embiid: Denver Nuggets at Philadelphia 76ers, Jan. 16 (7:30 p.m., TNT)

Embiid was the regular-season MVP in 2023, but once again, he couldn’t find his way to at least the conference finals. Jokić was his prime competition for the MVP award this time around after besting Embiid in the race in 2021 and 2022. Last season, Jokić ended up getting the ultimate leg up on Embiid with an NBA Finals MVP and a title. This is a fun matchup, and it’s going to probably be ruined by debate culture shenanigans leading up to or following it. But the basketball will be great.

Steph Curry vs. LeBron Jame: Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors, Jan. 27 (8:30 p.m., ABC)

Two of the greatest to ever do it and two of the most dominant players of the last two decades. Curry and James are 10-10 all-time against each other in the regular season. Curry is 17-11 against LeBron in their postseason history, but LeBron just eliminated Curry last season to end the Warriors’ championship defense. Sign me up for every single one of these matchups.

Jimmy Butler vs. Joel Embiid: Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat, Dec. 25 (8 p.m., ESPN)

Two of the greatest trolls to ever do it. Two incredible players. And you never know if Butler will try to entice Embiid to decide to leave Philly and join him in Miami. Yes, Heat fans, I know you love Bam Adebayo. Jimmy does too. But that won’t stop him from making things awkward just because he can. They have some fun on-court battles too.

Luka Dončić vs. Trae Young: Dallas Mavericks at Atlanta Hawks, Jan. 26 (7 p.m., NBATV)

I still love how closely Dončić and Young are tied to each other because of that fateful draft night trade in 2018. They have a real mutual respect for each other and even found a way to have a meaningful moment against each other at an All-Star weekend.  Both the Hawks and Mavs are trying to get serious about moving up in the NBA world. This game will be fun. They’re 4-4 against each other in their careers.

Rookie debuts and showdowns

Victor Wembanyama’s first NBA game: Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs, Oct. 25 (9:30 p.m., ESPN)

Not only do we get to see Wembanyama make his highly anticipated NBA debut, but it happens against a fun Mavs team that has a lot to prove, but not much of an interior presence to employ. Fun matchup for Wemby’s first game.

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Victor Wembanyama could make the Spurs must-watch this season. (Lucas Peltier/ USA Today)

Brandon Miller’s first NBA game: Atlanta Hawks at Charlotte Hornets, Oct. 25 (7 p.m.)

No. 2 pick Miller isn’t nearly as highly touted as some of these rookies, but he has a highly promising career ahead of him. It starts in a matchup against Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks.

Scoot Henderson’s first NBA game: Portland Trail Blazers at LA Clippers, Oct. 25 (10:30 p.m.)

Henderson is as legitimate a point guard prospect as they come. The question for his debut against the Clippers is, will he be sharing a backcourt with Lillard, or will he be the sole franchise guy for the Blazers?

Chet Holmgren’s first NBA game: Oklahoma City Thunder at Chicago Bulls, Oct. 25 (8 p.m.)

Don’t forget that redshirt rookie Holmgren is going to make his debut too! He has good odds to snatch Rookie of the Year from Wembanyama, and redshirt rookies usually have a great start to their on-court careers.

Wembanyama vs. Holmgren: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder, Nov. 14 (7:30 p.m., TNT, In-Season Tournament)

Nearly 15 feet in combined height. Nearly 16 feet in combined wingspan. Just 400 pounds in combined weight. It’s going to be the lankiest rookie showdown ever. Watch a YouTube video of giraffes fighting to get hyped for this.

Wembanyama vs. Miller: Charlotte Hornets at San Antonio Spurs, Jan. 12 (10 p.m., ESPN)

It’s the top two picks in the draft battling it out for the first time. Not to mention, Wembanyama needs to get some revenge on Kai Jones for what happened in Vegas.

Wembanyama vs. Henderson: San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers, Dec. 29 (10 p.m.)

When Wembanyama’s French team played against Scoot’s G League Ignite squad, it was must-see television. Their matchups will be the same for the next two decades.

Amen Thompson vs. Ausar Thompson: Detroit Pistons at Houston Rockets, Jan. 1 (8 p.m.)

Twin brothers drafted back-to-back are going to play against each other. Even if you’re freaked out by twins like I am, this is one of those amazing family basketball moments the NBA does so well.

Wembanyama vs. Giannis: San Antonio Spurs at Milwaukee Bucks, Dec. 19 (8:30 p.m.)

Of course, Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to destroy Wembanyama physically when they match up against each other, at least this season. But tell me you don’t want to see what this looks like when two Tim Burton characters square off.

(Top photo of LeBron James and Nikola Jokić: Adam Pantozzi / NBAE via Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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