NBA's 2017-18 schedule: Rematches, rivalries, returns

From superstar returns to debuts of Draft picks, 2017-18 is filled with key dates

Lang Whitaker

Lang Whitaker NBA.com

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Aug 14, 2017 6:53 PM ET

6:48

Can anyone dethrone the Warriors in their quest for another NBA title in 2017-18?

Start blocking out your calendar. With the release of the NBA schedule for 2017-18, you can now make sure you don’t miss any of the biggest matchups from the season ahead.

Here’s our cheat sheet, featuring not only several required viewing matchups but also some of must-see rematches, rivalries and returns.

Required Viewing

Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors
Dec. 25, 3 p.m. ET (ABC)

If you thought three consecutive matchups in The NBA Finals was enough, think again. The Cavs and Warriors are set to square off in Oakland’s Oracle Arena on Christmas Day, with LeBron and the Cavs looking to get revenge after the Warriors won the 2017 title in a relatively easy 3-1 series. The Warriors seem even deeper this season, while Cleveland is still sorting through personnel issues. No matter how things shake out, regular season games don’t get much bigger than this.

3:18
Relive the top 10 plays from The 2017 NBA Finals!

Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs
Nov. 2, 8 p.m. ET (TNT)

The Warriors may be the most powerful team in the NBA at the moment, but over the recent long run, that distinction has belonged to the Spurs, who have won five titles over the last two decades with Gregg Popovich as coach. And during Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference finals, the Spurs looked to have solved the riddle of the Warriors, taking a 25-point lead in the game. An injury to Kawhi Leonard derailed the Spurs chances, but this year they get a new chance to see if they can stop one of the NBA’s most potent offenses.

Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers
Oct. 17, 8 p.m. ET (TNT)

The Cavaliers may have represented the Eastern Conference in The 2017 NBA Finals, but the Celtics finished the regular season 53-29 and captured the No. 1 seed. An injury to Isaiah Thomas hobbled Boston against Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals, but the additions of Gordon Hayward and lottery pick Jayson Tatum should give Boston even more options this season.

1:21
How will the added rest in the 2017-18 schedule benefit players?

Minnesota Timberwolves at Chicago Bulls
Feb. 9,  8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Jimmy Butler played for the Chicago Bulls for his first six seasons, becoming one of the NBA’s best two-way players and making three All-Star teams. The rebuilding Bulls moved Butler to Minnesota, where he’ll team with former Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau and former teammate Taj Gibson to try and lift a young Wolves roster into playoff contention.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Indiana Pacers
Dec. 13, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Much like Jimmy Butler in Chicago, Paul George spent his first six seasons in Indiana, becoming one of the NBA’s best two-way players and making four All-Star teams. With George one year away from being able to test free agency, the Pacers moved PG to OKC, where George will pair with Kia MVP winner Russell Westbrook to form one of the NBA’s most high-powered duos. With this game, George makes his first return trip to Indiana since the trade.

Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors
Oct. 17, 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

Hope you like buckets. As great as the Warriors were last season, going 67-15 and winning their second title in three years, the Rockets also turned in a historic regular season. With MVP runner-up James Harden at the point and using coach Mike D’Antoni’s 3-point heavy offense, the Rockets went 55-27 in the regular season before being eliminated by the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals.

With James Harden and Stephen Curry, the Rockets-Warriors matchup is likely to be high-scoring.

Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors
Jan. 1, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBA League Pass)

The Milwaukee Bucks have spent the last few seasons assembling one of the league’s longest and most athletic rosters, anchored by 22-year-old all-everything player Giannis Antetokounmpo. After a 42-40 regular season, the Bucks faced off against the Raptors in the first round of the postseason and pushed the veteran Raptors to six games in a contentious series, setting the stages for a rivalry.

Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers
Jan. 15, 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

This game could also be counted as a “return” to keep an eye on, as new Rockets guard Chris Paul comes back to play in Los Angeles, where he played his last six seasons with the Clippers. And these teams also have a genuine rivalry, including when the Rockets bumped the Clippers out in the 2015 Western Conference semifinals. Either way, these Western Conference powers will battle for pecking order in the West.

Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers
Oct. 20, 7 p.m. ET (NBA League Pass)

After years of waiting for their rebuilding plan to come to fruition, Philadelphia 76ers fans are finally able to see light at the end of the tunnel. With new No. 1 Draft pick Markelle Fultz on board alongside second-year players Joel Embiid and Dario Saric -- along with last season’s top pick, Ben Simmons, who missed an entire year due to injury -- Sixers fans ready to watch the process pay off get their chance against Boston for the home opener.

CHRISTMAS DAY 2017

Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks, Noon ET (ESPN)

Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors, 3 p.m. ET (ABC)

Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics, 5:30 p.m. ET (ABC)

Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder, 8 p.m. ET (ABC)

Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

1:28
A Cavs-Warriors rematch highlights a stellar five-game Christmas Day slate.

Along with all the other dates worth clearing off your calendar, make sure you leave Christmas Day wide open, as this year the NBA continues their annual tradition of stuffing the day full of big games. This year is no different from years past with a day full of the NBA’s best lineups. Of particular note is The Finals rematch on ABC, and TNT topping off the day with a dessert of two of the better young rosters in the League.

NBA GLOBAL GAMES

The NBA has announced a few trips abroad this regular season, as the Brooklyn Nets will set up shop in Mexico City to host the Spurs (Dec. 7) and the Miami Heat (Dec. 9), while the Sixers and the Celtics will square off in London’s O2 Arena (Jan. 11). Not only are these opportunities for NBA teams to show their skills to burgeoning international markets, but don’t forget that these are not exhibitions -- these count as regular season games for these teams, so Ws and Ls matter.

Rematches, Rivalries And Returns

6:56
Key player returns and team rematches mark the schedule in 2017-18.

Golden State Warriors at Oklahoma City Thunder
Nov.  22, 8 ET (ESPN)

Last summer, Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City to sign with the Golden State Warriors, where he helped them win an NBA title. In KD’s absence, Russell Westbrook stepped up and became the NBA’s MVP while guiding the Thunder back to the postseason. This year Durant will return to OKC to face a Thunder team that has added the terrific Paul George.

New Orleans Pelicans at Sacramento Kings
Oct. 26, 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

The Sacramento Kings made a bold move literally during the 2017 All-Star Game in New Orleans, trading All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans. While Cousins wasn’t thrilled to leave Sacramento behind, he hasn’t had the chance to play against the Kings since the trade was made. As he recently told ESPN’s The Undefeated, Cousins clearly has this game circled on his calendar:

“I can’t wait. Oh, my God. I can’t wait. I’m praying it’s the first game. I just got a lot to get off my chest. I can’t wait” Hopefully having it as the fifth game will suffice.

Denver Nuggets at Atlanta Hawks
Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBA League Pass)

While Jimmy Butler and Paul George leaving the Eastern Conference to ply their trade out West have drawn plenty of attention, another two-way forward who belongs in that conversation is Paul Millsap, who left the rebuilding Hawks in free agency for a lucrative deal with the Nuggets. While Millsap’s return to The ATL might not be as contentious as that of some other NBA stars, Millsap was the best player on Atlanta’s 60-win team just two seasons ago.

Boston Celtics at Utah Jazz
March 28, 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

While an influx of talent went from East to West, the Utah Jazz saw their first-time All-Star Gordon Hayward go the other way and head East to sign with Boston. This will be Hayward’s first game back in Salt Lake City since his departure.

3:44
How did Gordan Hayward's departure affect the Jazz's offseason?

Cleveland Cavaliers at Washington Wizards
Nov. 3, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

The Cavs and Wizards had one of the best regular season games of the NBA season back in February, when the Cavs ultimately prevailed in overtime, 140-135. As Washington hopes to cement their standing in the Eastern Conference, games against the Conference elite take on added meaning.

Sacramento Kings at Toronto Raptors
Dec. 17, 3:30 p.m. ET (NBA League Pass)

Newly signed Kings swingman Vince Carter has said he hopes to play two more seasons in the NBA, and he’s clearly still able to contribute, as he showed last year in averaging 8 ppg in 73 games with the Grizzlies. But as he enters his 20th season, Carter’s stops from now on in Toronto, where he first became an NBA superstar two decades ago, will always have increased meaning.

13:04
Vince Carter explains why he decided to sign with the Kings this summer.

Charlotte Hornets at Atlanta Hawks
Jan. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBA League Pass)

Much was made last summer of the Atlanta Hawks signing hometown star Dwight Howard, who looking to show what he was still capable of doing on the court. And while Howard averaged 13.5 ppg and 12.7 rpg in 73 games with the Hawks, he was often on the bench down the stretch in games, a victim of the NBA’s pace of play as well as his own free throw shooting. With the Hawks rebuilding, they traded Howard up I-85 to Charlotte, where Steve Clifford will look to incorporate a classic big man to a potent team.

Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks
April 10, 8:30 p.m. ET (NBA League Pass)

The 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki enters his 20th NBA season as important to the Mavericks as ever, both on and off the court. Nowitzki recently signed a one-season deal with an option for next season, leaving open the possibility that this may not be his last go-round. If Dirk does decide to walk away next summer, this game could be his final NBA regular season appearance.

1:08
Where will Dirk Nowitzki rank on the all-time scoring list when his career ends?

San Antonio at New Orleans
April 11, 8 p.m. ET (NBA League Pass)

During San Antonio’s Game 4 loss to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, Manu Ginobili received numerous ovations from the hometown crowd that assumed they were witnessing the final game of Ginobili’s legendary career. But after further reflection, the 40-year-old Ginobili decided to come back for one more season, his 16th in the NBA. This game could be Ginobili’s final regular season appearance.

Phoenix Suns at Philadelphia 76ers
December 4, 7 p.m. ET (NBA League Pass)

Rebuilding is never fun for fans to go through, and the last few years we’ve seen two teams begin to emerge from rebuilding projects. The Sixers are trusting “the process,” while the Suns look to “the timeline” as both teams hope it’s time to stop rebuilding and just start building.

5:19
When will the brightest names of the 2017 Draft make their NBA debut?

Brooklyn Nets at Los Angeles Lakers
Nov. 3, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBA League Pass)

It’s not a cross-country rivalry so much as it is two teams that are, at least for now, linked. Over the offseason, the rebuilding Nets traded All-Star big man Brook Lopez back to the West Coast, where he’ll help Lonzo Ball space the floor in the rebuilding Lakers’ wide open attack. In return, the Lakers sent the Nets former No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell, who gets a chance for career redemption running the Nets’ uptempo offense.

Lang Whitaker has covered the NBA since 1998. You can e-mail him here, find his archive hereor follow him on Twitter.

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