The NBA offseason is just about over and the NBA's schedule has been released, with no shortage of eye-catching match-ups.
There are superstars returning to confront former teams, inner city battles, and epic rematches on tab. And everybody wants to dethrone the defending champion Miami Heat.
While the Finals is a very long way off, the season promises plenty of drama itself.
# 5: November 27, Heat at Cavaliers
While this is not a matchup of two great teams (rather one elite and one good team), LeBron was still the most hated man in Cleveland last year.
However, it should be interesting to see how quickly fans forget, as there have been rumors about LeBron travelling back to Ohio in the 2014 free agency.
But in terms of the game itself, it is more intriguing than at first glance. The Heat are the better team, no question. But the Cavaliers two strongest positions, Point Guard (Kyrie Irving and Jarrett Jack) and Center (Anderson Varejao and Andrew Bynum) just happen to be the two chinks in the Heat's armor.
Watch the action both on and off the court for this one.
#4: January 20, Nets at Knicks
Ever seen a fight between two brothers over who gets the last apple? Well that's kind of how this is; a battle for New York.
Brooklyn vs Madison Square Garden, powerhouse vs powerhouse, this is the type of game that defines the NBA.
Here we will see the new-look Nets with a lot of pride to play for against more prestigious Knicks. Again though, on the court, this is just as good.
The Nets roster is totally revamped, and everyone in their starting lineup has been an All-Star. Meanwhile the Knicks have all the pieces of a great team but just cannot win in crunch time.
These are two teams who could threaten the Heat, but January 20th, they'll be fighting for the Big Apple.
#3: December 29, Houston at Oklahoma City
This became a rivalry last year after James Harden was traded to the Rockets, signed a huge contract, and proved himself as a top three shooting guard in the league.
However, the Thunder still remained the better team, beating the Rockets in the playoffs in six games. It wasn't really balanced either. It was one great player vs two (Harden vs Westbrook and Durant). Well, the Rockets don't have that excuse this year, after bringing in Dwight Howard to be their next great big man.
This immediately transformed them into title contenders. Another note about this game is that Russell Westbrook received the injury that ended his season against the Rockets, when Patrick Beverly attempted to steal the ball.
There should be some hostility from OKC fans there. This should be a great matchup between two Western Conference favorites.
#2: February 19, Houston at Los Angeles
The Houston Rockets got the best center in the league, in Dwight Howard, this offseason, and this was after LA offered him more money.
Needless to say, this didn't go down too well with Lakers fans; just check Dwight's Facebook or Twitter. Dwight seems to feel no pity for them either apparently.
The boos in LA will certainly be at full force. However, there's more to this matchup. We'll get to see just how good both Kobe Bryant and James Harden are. For Kobe, we'll see if he's the same player post-injury. And for Harden, we'll see if his game is as big as his beard, going up one of the greatest shooting guards ever.
The Lakers might not be a title contender - wow, that feels weird saying that - but this game should have a Finals atmosphere.
#1: October 29, Chicago at Miami
This has blossomed into one of my favorite rivalries in all of sports. The games are physical, intense, and heated (no pun intended). Any Bulls-Heat game last year was worth watching with plenty of technicals, flagrants, words and elbows exchanged, and just high quality basketball.
Hard to imagine, but this game has so much more going for it, even more than when the Bulls snapped the Heat's winning streak at 27. This offseason, Chicago's Joakim Noah said that he hated the Heat. Not really a surprise but this still added fuel to the fire.
Also two videos came out on Youtube: Derrick Rose Vengeance and, in response, LeBron James Watch the Throne .
And, saving the best for last, the return of Derrick Rose will premier. Rose against the Big Three is what it's always been about and we'll be able to see how he measures up after a devastating injury that kept him out for over a year.
Think of this, the last time Rose played, the Big Three hadn't won a finals and the Bulls had captured the East's top spot two years running. Well, he's back. And for every basketball fan, no matter of for who, they'll be excited to see this game on opening night.
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