The NBA has released its schedule…of ‘marquee’ games for the upcoming season. Sorry, Nets, you did not make the cut. Do not feel left out though, many of the NBA’s best teams were snubbed. This is yet another in the league’s attempts to drum up attention for itself during the summer doldrums. It would be more successful if there were not leaks that have led to many game matchups having already been reported by various outlets. Simply put, this is the NBA and David Stern at their pandering best. Hell, the NBA is accustomed to pandering so why would they stop now? It loves to showcase its preferred and anointed teams to a national audience even though many fans detest these teams but may like a player or two on them. So this year will be the year of the Miami Heat. It seems like they have the nationally broadcast game of the week nine times a week. Less than one tenth of the actual schedule has been released thus far and the Heat are the winners. (By the way, Miami plays in Cleveland on 2 December.) Stern loves to pander to ratings and the advertising revenue that it brings in above all else. He completely ignored claims of tampering in the Miami Thrice coup d’état but will now reap the financial benefits of having the trio on national television all the time. (And he says the league is losing money…) The only way that Stern would not have had the schedule arranged (I am well aware that he does not personally make the schedule but as the commissioner he has a say as to what teams will be spotlighted on certain days, i.e. Christmas Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and opening night.) such as this would have been if Mark Cuban had lured LeBron James to Dallas. Seems that if Cuban even breathes Stern is going to fine him or investigating him.
Ok, enough rambling about the flaws of the NBA and its commissioner. There will be plenty of time for that in the future. On to the games (that have been officially released).
Opening Night(s): 26 October
The first game of the national double-header will be those Miami Heat traveling to Beantown to face the Boston Celtics. By itself this is a good matchup between the reigning Eastern Conference champion and the team that some (*cough* Hollinger *cough*) think will win 70+ games. That sure is some billing, but there is something else that will be brought into the already loaded equation. According to a tweet by Stephen A. Smith, Shaquille O’Neal will join the Celtics today. He was right on the whole Chris Bosh and James to Miami so I am going with him on this one. Shaq will be a Celtic. “The Big TD Garden” or “the Big Leprechaun.” Shaq played with both LeBron and Dwyane Wade. He helped Wade to the most tainted ring in NBA history. Before the Shaq factor, the tag line being thrown around was about opposing big threes, but the story should have really been about Eddie House facing off against his former team. Who care if Shaq is in the last year(s) of his career, he still steals the story. (Really just wanted to jump the gun and write about Shaq as a Celtic so the rest will be light info. Read Marc Stein’s breakdown of the games for more information and analysis.)
The second game of the double-header will be the Houston Rockets at the Los Angeles Lakers. Clearly the first game will overshadow this one due to star power and time zones but this should be one to watch. Houston is good and Yao Ming should be back barring any serious setbacks in training camp. If Yao is back and healthy Lakers fans may get familiar with Theo Ratliff before they ever imagined they would. One key matchup will be between Shane Battier and Kobe Bryant. They are always fun to watch compete against each other. This will also be Ron Artest versus Trevor Ariza, but we are too over that to even bother discussing it.
Chicago travels to Seattle…er, wait, Oklahoma City to take on the very young, very exciting, and very lacking in the department of serviceable big man Thunder. Since the Bulls acquired Carlos Boozer this summer they should have the edge in the paint along with Joakim Noah mopping the glass. If the Bulls can slow Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook it would be something. Derrick Rose should be taking notes during his time with Durant on Team USA.
Portland gets one of their obligatory appearances because of time zones in the second nationally televised game. Yet, they will be on the road in Los Angeles…facing the Clippers. The Clippers are rarely seen on a national broadcast and there is a reason for it. Expect this to be their only game televised nationally. Do not worry east coast dwellers, the game will be on so late you will not even have to watch the Clippers lose.
Ah, John Wall gets his first national exposure in the NBA…against the Orlando Magic. The Wizards have made some decent moves this summer in bringing in Kirk Hinrich and resigning Josh Howard and they should Beretta Gil back too but against the Magic, who have played in each of the last two Eastern Conference Finals, do not expect a coming out party for Wall or Washington.
Phoenix will travel to Utah in the Western Conference matchup of the evening. Both teams have had to retool at the power forward positions this summer after their former fours decided to head east. The Suns brought in Hakim Warrick and the Jazz traded for Al Jefferson. There will be a good matchup at the point as well with Steve Nash and Deron Williams squaring off.
Here come those Heat again. They will host the Magic in what is a tough, tough, tough first two games for Miami. Jeez, why can they not play New Jersey of the Wrath of David Kahns every game? Gee golly it just is not fair! By the time this game is over we should have a good idea of how vulnerable Miami’s interior defense is.
In the west the Lakers travel to Phoenix in what has become a classic regular and post season matchup. However, the Suns really do not have anyone to defend/piss off Kobe Bryant anymore so the rivalry has dimmed a bit.
The NBA has put together a set of five games for this day. Can you guess one of the matchups? Wrong. If you said that the Heat would play the Lakers you are wrong. Miami will play Los Angeles in all five games! How do those schedule makers do it? First they will play a game at 4 am in Madison Square Garden, and then they will fly to Miami for another game, after that it is off to Chicago, then Denver and finally they will face each other in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. Phew! Incredible right? Boy, the NBA has it figured out this year. Bravo David Stern, bravo.
Actually the five matchups are between the Bulls who travel to New York to face the Knicks, followed by Boston at Orlando, then the aforementioned Lakers versus Heat in Los Angeles, Denver at Oklahoma City, and finally the Golden State Warriors (sans Nellie?) will host the Portland Trailblazers.
Chicago at Memphis; Orlando at Boston; Oklahoma City at Los Angeles Lakers. Blah, blah, blah. Really like the inclusion of the Grizzlies though. They should be a good team this coming season. Probably will be another case where if they were in the east they would make the playoffs.
Is anyone else starting to get tired of certain teams? The season has yet to begin and already the homogeneity is vomit-inducing. Can we not be treated to New Jersey vs. Minnesota? Ratings be damned! What about Toronto vs. Miami or Toronto vs. Phoenix? People would watch these games. Not everyone cares solely about ‘star’ players. Some of us like the sport for what it is and will watch any and every game we can. Speaking of which, more games need to be shown on ABC during the regular season. The cable monopoly has got to stop. The league needs to get the product out to the most people possible and the best way to do that is on network television.
Dallas Mavericks: Really no surprise here. Stern and the NBA have never shown love to the Mavericks despite the fact that they have been in the playoffs every year since 2000 and were the second seed in the west last year.
San Antonio Spurs: This team will probably still make some people’s lists as championship contenders when the season starts. They have won four titles and are methodical and precise. Oh, that’s right, people hate methodical basketball. Last time I checked, George Hill is far from methodical.
Milwaukee Bucks: Don’t you dare go to sleep on this team, NBA. This team is made to be a giant killer. They took the heavily favored Hawks to seven games in the playoffs last year and have only gotten better this offseason. With a healthy Andrew Bogut they will be the most dangerous team in the east.
Atlanta Hawks: They really did not do much of anything this summer other than resigning Joe Johnson to a giant contract. Good thing for the Hawks that during the regular season Johnson will play like he is worth it. Come playoffs however, a whole different story unfolds.
Sacramento Kings: If you watched them in Summer League play you know that DeMarcus Cousins is the real deal. He and Tyreke Evans should work well together. Add Samuel Dalembert and Carl Landry and you have the makings of something good.
Philadelphia 76ers: They acquired Spencer Hawes, Andres Nocioni, and drafted Evan Turner. Sure they had a bad year last season going 27-55 but injuries did not help anything. (Nor did Allen Iverson.) The previous two seasons the 76ers were just shy of making the playoffs so it is reasonable that they could get back to form.
New Orleans Hornets: You would think with all the Chris Paul chatter and trade demands that they would show at least one ‘marquee’ game featuring the Hornets. If they did we could see Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton, who cares about Paul anyway? “LeBron did it so I want to do it too, waaaah.” Boo-hoo.
Cleveland Cavaliers: This is a team that is the most spurned in sports history. However, they should still be a .500+ ball club. Antawn Jamison is more than capable of scoring points in droves and being a double-double machine. The addition of Ramon Sessions should help speed up the tempo, which is what Byron Scott likes, for them as well. They no longer are living in the shadow of one player but now we must see if they are living with his ghost.
The full 2010-11 schedule will be release on 10 August but it will likely be completely leaked before then.