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Art Garcia

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Sunshine State bragging rights will be on the line when retooled Miami and tough Orlando square off.
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Strong nationally televised games to offer intense drama


Posted Aug 11 2010 11:02PM

First he didn't thank Cleveland while thanking Akron. Then he thanked Cleveland in Akron. For those waiting for LeBron James to thank Cleveland in Cleveland, circle Dec. 2 on your calendar.

Yep, LeBron returns to the city of his NBA birth for the first time in different shorts for an early December reunion that probably won't be too tearful. Coincidentally, it's also being televised by TNT. Well, maybe it's not a coincidence. LeBron and the Miami Heat are going to be on national TV this season more than Guy Fieri.

But the fun for doesn't end there. One week after getting a peek, we've got the full picture for 2010-11. Complete schedules for every team were announced Tuesday on NBA.com, fleshing out the entire slate for he upcoming season.

As with last week's announcement, several games catch the eye at first glance. Even though all 82 are important for all 30 squads, let's be honest, some promise to have that little something extra.

Without including the games released a week ago, here's our unofficial look at some of the very best national TV broadcasts this season:

Classic Showdowns | More | Rookies

Ten Classic Showdowns

-Bulls at Celtics, Nov. 5, ESPN

Don't hand over the Eastern Conference crown to the Heat just yet. Chicago and the team defending its East title, Boston, muscled up this offseason. The Celtics kept their Big Four intact, while adding a pair of O'Neals -- Jermaine and Shaq. Derrick Rose welcomes a new enforcer (Carlos Boozer) to headline the Bulls' Jazz infusion.

Heat at Magic, Nov. 24, ESPN

A Florida state championship won't be on the line and November is way too early to worry about bragging rights, but don't miss the second meeting in less than a month for these Sunshine heavyweights. While Dwight Howard may be Superman, the Super Friends are making their first visit to Orlando's new Amway Center.

Spurs at Mavericks, Dec. 30, TNT

There's no love lost between these Texas rivals, who've faced off in the playoffs the last two years and five times over the last decade. Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki are still among the best power forwards in the game despite being on the wrong side of 30.

Lakers at Suns, Jan. 5, ESPN

The Suns exceeded all expectations last season by reaching the Western Conference finals. It just so happens the Lakers knocked them out on their way to a repeat championship. Kobe Bryant knows better than to overlook their Pacific Division mates, who are paced by the ageless Steve Nash.

Lakers at Celtics, Feb. 10, TNT

This is a matchup worthy of HBO specials. Combatants in two of the last three Finals, the league's signature rivalry is back on track. Any time they meet, it's worthy of a stop down, but games at the Garden bring out that added bit of nastiness. Can't beat, "Beat L.A., Beat L.A."

Bulls at Bucks, Feb. 26, NBA TV

The glory years for both franchises haven't matched up in the past, which is a shame for two cities about 90 miles apart. That's going to change in this new classic within the Central Division. Worth watching just to see super sophomore Brandon Jennings and Rose go at it each other for four quarters.

Celtics at Knicks, March 21, NBA TV

Is this the year Boston-New York means something again? We already know about the C's, so it's up to the Knickerbockers to make this one relevant. The summer didn't go exactly as planned in the Big Apple, but Amar'e Stoudemire joins an ever-evolving roster. Oh, Isiah Thomas is back, too.

Nuggets at Lakers, April 3, ABC

Denver is as good a choice as any to challenge the champs in the West. Whether or not Carmelo Anthony opts out or signs that extension could hinge on where the Nuggets stand against the league's best. The Lakers are probably going to start revving up at this point with the playoffs about two weeks away.

Blazers at Jazz, April 7, TNT

The Northwest Division could still be up for grabs with the regular season winding down. (Expect the Thunder to have a say in that also.) Brandon Roy-led Portland may be taking the deepest team in the league into the league's toughest arena.

Celtics at Heat, April 10, ABC

Is the top spot in the East going to be decided in the last of their four meetings? Maybe, but that's just another footnote in this delicious clash between the old and the new. Something tells us these two will be meeting again a couple of months down the road.

Ten More to Catch

-Thunder at Blazers, Nov. 4, TNT

It's only the first week of November, but you'll have seen Oklahoma City plenty by then. Get used to it. Unsullied league poster boy Kevin Durant takes the upstart Thunder two time zones away to face their Northwest Division "neighbors."

Rockets at Knicks, Nov. 14, NBA TV

Yao Ming is back for Houston and facing a familiar foe in Stoudemire. The Rockets are a trendy pick to get back in the West playoffs, while the Knicks should entertain similar expectations in the East.

Heat at Cavaliers, Dec. 2, TNT

Welcome home, LeBron. We've been waiting.

Jazz at Mavericks, Dec. 11, NBA TV

Where do these squads fit in the West? Your guess is as good as ours in a conference with at least 10 playoff contenders. Dallas native Deron Williams not only loves coming home, but he's this generation's Jason Kidd. The Mavs still happen to employ the original.

Spurs at Nuggets, Dec. 16, TNT

San Antonio appears to be reenergized with the additions of Tiago Splitter and rookie James Anderson, plus a healthy cast of familiar characters. They're going to need that get-up-and-go for a trip to the Mile High City to face Melo, Chauncey Billups and their tatted cohorts.

Heat at Knicks, Jan. 27, TNT

Madison Square Garden could have been the King's castle had "The Decision" taken a different turn. Same goes for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Amar'e and Isiah apparently dropped the recruiting ball.

Celtics at Suns, Jan. 28, ESPN

Welcome back, Shaq. Ok, the Big Dig was back last season with Cleveland. Details, details. Also another good reason to trot out footage from the 1976 Finals.

Heat at Thunder, Jan. 30, ABC

The current MVP takes on the future version in LeBron vs. Durant. There won't be a tougher ticket to get in Oklahoma City this season than this Sunday afternoon in ABC's first post-Christmas game.

Lakers at Thunder, Feb. 27, ABC

Well, this ticket is going to be another scalper's dream. Oklahoma City gave Kobe and crew as sturdy a playoff challenge as anyone in the West last season. Should the Thunder and Lakers meet again in the postseason, don't count on it being in the first round.

Bulls at Hawks, March 22, TNT

Atlanta still considers itself a top-four team in the East. Chicago is one of those trying to squeeze the Hawks out. Also potential here for be a first-round preview, probably of the 4-5 or 3-6 seeding variety.

Hey Rookies

-Clippers at Spurs, Nov. 10, ESPN

Early look at the Rookie Season Part II for Blake Griffin, as the 2009 top pick of the L.A. Clippers locks horn with Duncan, the standard bearer at his position. Griffin missed all of last season with a knee injury.

Wizards at Hawks, Nov. 25, TNT

Washington's hopes for a bounce-back season fall largely on the back of John Wall, the latest No. 1 selection. Atlanta point guard Mike Bibby is just one of many vets ready to give the D.C. rook an NBA education.

Nuggets at Kings, Jan. 6, TNT

Does No. 5 pick DeMarcus Cousins have what it takes to join Tyreke Evans as back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners in Sacramento? Kentucky teammate Wall could be Cousins' main competition.

Celtics at 76ers, Dec. 9, TNT

Philadelphia's Evan Turner, the second overall choice, is showcased in a traditional rivalry that could use reviving. Count on Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to be ready for the Ohio State product.

Spurs at Nets, Feb. 14, NBA TV

No. 3 pick Derrick Favors is one of the centerpieces for Mikhail Prokhorov and Avery Johnson in New Jersey's new world order. The Nets better have more than 12 wins by the time San Antonio calls on Newark.

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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