We’ve reached that point in the NBA calendar. The month of August is typically quiet — well, except for that whole Kyrie Irving thing last year — leaving NBA fans and analysts left to create debates about innocuous topics. (That’s not at all what we do during the regular season, though. Totally different.)
So why not use Wednesday’s schedule release for marquee NBA games as a starting point? Time for some irrational anger!
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The league should have reconsidered these decisions when creating the 2018-19 season schedule…
1. Missing Rockets vs. Warriors rematch?
The Rockets play three times during Opening Week (vs. Pelicans, at Lakers, at Clippers). They battle the Thunder on Christmas Day and the 76ers on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. That’s a nice set of games for last season’s No. 1 overall seed. And yet, despite the heavy national TV presence, the Rockets won’t be facing the Warriors on some of the most notable nights of the year.
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Considering Houston provided the most difficult challenge during Golden State’s championship run, this seemed to be an easy call. Have a motivated MVP in James Harden watching from the opposite end of the floor on Opening Night as the Warriors receive their championship rings. The NBA handed that spot to Russell Westbrook and the Thunder instead — not a terrible option, but a Western Conference finals rematch would have been better.
2. No trip to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard?
After a year full of drama and speculation, Leonard finally landed in Toronto as part of a blockbuster trade last month. However, the new Raptors forward won’t be taking a trip back to San Antonio for Opening Night or Christmas Day. In fact, the Raptors won’t be celebrating Christmas on the court at all.
The reaction from Spurs fans would have been fascinating to watch. Do they go the classy route and cheer for a former Finals MVP ahead of the season opener or on Christmas Day? Or just boo the hell out of Leonard after he forced his way out the door?
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It’s not all bad news for the “We the North” crowd. The Raptors face the Celtics at home on Oct. 19 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) in what could be an Eastern Conference finals preview, and they will travel to San Antonio at some point when full team schedules are released Friday.
Still, this feels like a missed opportunity.
3. We’ve got the Knicks on Christmas again?!
There is undoubtedly a certain mystique surrounding Madison Square Garden. There’s no other NBA arena quite like it.
The problem here? The Knicks are going to stink.
New York’s front office is taking its time with a true rebuild rather than cutting corners, but that doesn’t help when it comes to entertainment value. It’s unlikely Kristaps Porzingis is available for the early Christmas Day game against the Bucks after tearing his ACL last February, eliminating the intrigue of a potential meeting at the rim between Porzingis and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Major city, terrific venue and “The Greek Freak” should be a recipe for success. But none of that can overcome bad basketball. This slot should have been filled by the previously mentioned Spurs-Raptors contest. Oh well. Maybe Giannis will jump over a Knicks player again.