The top 10 NBA games to watch next season Here are the must-see matchups on the 2016-2017 NBA schedule
Kevin Durant took away a lot of the thunder from LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first NBA championship with the news that he was signing with the Golden State Warriors this offseason. And when next season starts, he’ll steal the spotlight again from James and Co., when all eyes are on him during his return to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder. The best games of the NBA’s 2016-17 schedule, which was released Thursday, include Durant, the Warriors at the Cavaliers, players returning to face their former teams and teams moving on from their former stars.
These are The Undefeated’s top 10 NBA regular-season games to watch next season:
Return of KD to OKC: Golden State at Oklahoma City. Date: Feb. 11, 2017
After nine years with the Thunder franchise, Durant shocked the NBA world by signing as a free agent with, of all teams, the Warriors. Golden State overcame a 3-1 series deficit to defeat Durant and the Thunder and win the 2016 Western Conference finals. It is way too early for Thunder fans to appreciate what the 2014 NBA MVP did for the franchise, so boos should be resounding during his awkward return to Oklahoma City.
A LeBron James Christmas: Golden State at Cleveland. Date: Dec. 25, 2016
The NBA’s popular Christmas slate will be highlighted by a rematch of the last two NBA Finals. The Warriors will have to uncomfortably play under the Cavaliers’ 2016 NBA championship banner. Expect a joyous Cavaliers crowd for both holiday and championship reasons.
The raising of the long-awaited banner: New York at Cleveland. Date: Oct. 25, 2016
The Cavaliers will raise their first-ever NBA championship banner in franchise history and players will get their rings. It will be the cherry on top of Cleveland’s celebration after winning its first major pro sports title since 1964. This game probably will be an even hotter ticket in Cleveland than when the Warriors come to town.
Back to the Bay: Cleveland at Golden State. Date: Jan. 16, 2017
On MLK Day, LeBron and Co. return to the site where they won the Cavs’ first-ever NBA title by clinching an emotional Game 7 victory in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors will forever think about all that went wrong in their frustrating Finals. Wonder if James will joke that the Oracle Arena visiting locker room still smells like champagne?
D-Wade returns to South Beach. Chicago at Miami. Date: Nov. 10, 2016
Expect an emotional return to Miami for Dwyane Wade after playing his entire NBA career with the Heat. The 13-year NBA veteran won three titles in Miami and is arguably the greatest player in franchise history. Expect a classy response from the Heat and their fans for their beloved “D-Wade,” who probably should still be there.
Life after Kobe: Houston at L.A. Lakers. Date: Oct. 26, 2016
The Lakers will be playing their first home game without Kobe Bryant on their roster since 1996. Expect a full house at Staples Center on this night with a roster full of young but unproven talent led by rookie Brandon Ingram. Will Lakers fans stop showing up after this home game now that Bryant is gone?
Life without Timmy: New Orleans at San Antonio. Date: Oct. 29, 2016
The Spurs will be playing their first home game without Tim Duncan on the roster since 1997. San Antonio replaced the two-time NBA MVP with free agent big man Pau Gasol. Despite his shyness, Kawhi Leonard is now the face of the Spurs with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili aging.
D-Rose comes home: New York at Chicago. Date: Nov. 4, 2016
Chicago native Derrick Rose returns home for the first time after being traded to the Knicks. Rose had an injury-riddled career with the Bulls, but success as well that was highlighted with a 2011 NBA MVP award. Curious to see what kind of reception the top pick of the 2008 NBA draft receives from his hometown crowd that had a love-hate relationship with him.
Best of the West: Spurs at Warriors. Date: Oct. 25, 2016
The 2016 Western Conference champion Warriors open their season with a home battle against their rival Spurs at Oracle Arena. It will also be the Warriors’ debut for Durant with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. It will also be the Spurs’ first game without a newly retired Duncan with newcomers debuting in Gasol and former Warriors big man David Lee.
Rookie transition: Los Angeles at Philadelphia. Date: Dec. 16, 2016
Ben Simmons and the Sixers host Ingram and the Lakers in a matchup between the top-two picks of the 2016 NBA draft. Simmons also has two notable rookie teammates in Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. Will D’Angelo Russell pass Ingram the ball?