NBA Schedule: LeBron vs. Curry on opening night, Ben Simmons’ Philly returns to circle between 10 early matchups

The NBA’s 2022-23 schedule was released on Wednesday (what part of it hadn’t been leaked before anyway), and of course we’re all running through it as we circle the matchups that jump out. Here are 10 to mark the first six weeks on your calendar.

Opening night. LeBron James will see Stephen Curry receive his fourth championship ring, which matches his own total. The race to number 5 has begun and Curry, who is in charge of another title-holding roster, has the upper hand to get it. If the Lakers have Kyrie Irving at this point, this will be a headline matchup for reasons other than Curry vs. James; this will be two championship contenders going head to head with all the intrigue of a revamped Lakers roster and the Kyrie-LeBron reunion.

The opener for both teams, and it’s a must-see for a handful of reasons. Presumably, it marks Zion Williamson’s return to court. The same goes for Ben Simmons. Also, the Pelicans are one of the teams believed to be in the mix to trade for Kevin Durant. Can you imagine that trade has fallen at this point and Durant is opening the season? against the nets in Brooklyn? If not, and Durant and Kyrie Irving are active for the Nets, this is our first look at the on-field dynamics of the Durant-Irving-Simmons trio.

Rest assured that the Suns have some unfinished business with Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, who sent Phoenix home last season with a 33-point bludgeoning in Game 7 of the conference semifinals. It turned out that Phoenix was dealing with a COVID outbreak. Chris Paul even plays in October to win. Luka is a must-see TV. This is going to be a struggle.

4. Clippers at Lakers (October 20)

Another chance to see what this Lakers roster looks like, but more importantly, it should be the return of Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers are entering this season as a top-tier title contender, if Leonard is still an elite superstar. This is our first chance to see how long his return to such status will take after missing the entire season last season to recover a torn ACL.

If you haven’t heard, Rudy Gobert is now playing for Minnesota, which is going to be one of the most interesting teams to watch this season. Who knows if Donovan Mitchell will still be in a jazz uniform? If so, you can bet he and Gobert want the best of each other.

6. Nuggets at Warriors (October 21)

This isn’t Denver’s opener (which is against the Jazz), but it’s the Warriors, so now is a good time to tune in for the return of Jamal Murray and possibly Michael Porter Jr. Personally, I’m just as excited to watch the Nuggets this season as any team. This is a legitimate championship contender. Nikola Jokic has a case as the league’s best player, and putting Murray alongside him reunites an elite duo that is a lot of fun to watch.

The Sixers had a great off-season with the additions of PJ Tucker and De’Anthony Melton, but this is all about James Harden and whether his decline last season was the beginning of the end or a one-year blip. The Sixers have bet a lot of money ($68.8 million over two years) that he is still a goddamn elite. This is a pair of teams that are all set on winning a title. Individually, Giannis vs. Embiid never a bad match to clear the calendar for.

The balcony. Lonzo returns for the Bulls and LaMelo comes off an All-Star kink. Both teams are a nice watch, and the two brothers arguing is worth setting aside some time. You will definitely see them guarding each other.

Trae Young at Madison Square Garden. Enough said. The Hawks made a big trade this summer acquiring Dejounte Murray and this will be an early look at how he and Young will fit together, and as a potential bonus the Knicks may have Donovan Mitchell at this point. After taking out the Knicks in the 2021 playoffs, Young returned to MSG last season, throwing 45 points over. The man manages to grab the spotlight.

10. Nets at 76ers (November 22)

Let’s all pray to the basketball gods that Ben Simmons is on the court for the Nets in what would be his return to Philadelphia. If so, this will be a crazy atmosphere. Will Simmons wilt under the heat or turn it into fuel? This almost wouldn’t even qualify as a basketball game. It will feel more like a reality show.

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