SECAUCUS, N.J., August 6, 2008 -- It's hard to narrow the 1230 games in the NBA schedule down to just 10, but if I was to present you with a list of 1-1230, I doubt many of you would make it past game No. 712.

(Well, except you Toronto fans. You guys are scary committed.)

I'll be watching every night from late October until mid June, as I'm sure you will be too, but here are 10 key dates you might want to set cell phone text message reminders for. Trust me, you don't want to be stuck at a dinner party while Greg Oden finally gets up and down the floor, the Celtics and Lakers go at it again or Kobe and LeBron try to settle the ultimate basketball debate going on today.

I'm giving you two and a half months to clear your schedules for these games. You have no excuses.

Cleveland @ Boston, 8 p.m. ET, TNT
Portland @ LA Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
The last time the Cavs and Celts met up, LeBron James' 45 points weren't enough to push past Paul Pierce's 41 as Boston battled its way to an epic Game 7 victory. This time around there won't be nearly as much at stake, but LeBron & Co. could relish the role of playing the spoiler on a night when the Celtics will don their rings and raise banner No. 17 into the rafters at the TD Bank North Garden.

In the second game of TNT's double-header, the championship runner-ups host the team that just might have the most buzz surrounding it as an up-and-coming franchise. The matchup will feature a big man making a comeback for both teams as L.A. fans will finally get to see what an Andrew Bynum-Pau Gasol-Lamar Odom front court will look like, while the No. 1 pick of the 2007 Draft, Greg Oden, will anchor the middle for the first time for the fresh-look Blazers.

Phoenix @ San Antonio, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
LA Lakers @ LA Clippers, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Remember that double-overtime classic between the Suns and Spurs during the opening weekend of last season's playoffs? Is it too much for a basketball fan to ask for Tim Duncan to hit a clutch, late-game 3-pointer again? Both of these teams are aging and it will be worth watching to see if the window is closing on their championship contention.

The second game of the night marks Baron Davis' return to his hometown of Los Angeles as he sports the Clippers' red, white and blue for the first time after bolting from the Warriors this summer. Who better for Davis to do it against than the Clips' STAPLES Center co-habitants, the Lakers? In addition to B-Diddy, the game will give a first glimpse at the re-tooled roster that Mike Dunleavy has to work with that now includes Marcus Camby, Ricky Davis and lottery pick Eric Gordon.

Houston @ Dallas, 8 p.m. ET, TNT
New Orleans @ Phoenix, 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
10 MORE TO WATCH
MEM at CHI: Nov. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET, LP* – Heralded rookies O.J. Mayo and Derrick Rose could be starting and matching up head-to-head in this early season bout between two teams trying to rebound from a disappointing ’07-08.

GSW at LAC: Nov. 15, 3:30 p.m. ET, LP – Baron vs. Corey Maggette … In what could be a preview of the dogfight to come for the last few playoff spots in the Western Conference.

ORL at BOS: Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m. ET, LP – If the Magic want to contend for the Eastern Conference crown they will have to go through Boston. This game not only has playoff seeding implications but it’s also for conference bragging rights.

IND at TOR: Dec. 10, 7 p.m. ET, LP – Jermaine O’Neal faces his old squad and T.J. Ford finally gets to compete against Jose Calderon in something other than a practice game.

BOS at WAS: Dec. 11, 8 p.m. ET, TNT – The East’s two legitimate “Big Three” trios clash and the Wiz try to prove that only injuries have kept them from postseason success.

NOH at BOS: Dec. 12, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN – In addition to the Posey (former Celtic, now Hornet) subplot, this game should showcase two of the League’s strongest teams … A possible Finals preview?

ORL at PHX: Dec. 12, 9 p.m. ET, LP – Shaq, the aging legend, faces the future of dominant centers in Howard. Has the torch been passed or does Diesel still have some gas left in the tank?

CHI at MIA: Dec. 26, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN – Rose trying to show the Bulls they made the right choice taking him No. 1 … And Michael Beasley hoping to show them they made a mistake.

UTA at HOU: Dec. 27, 7:30 p.m. ET, LP – Houston has augmented its lineup with the addition of Artest and they will try to show the world that they can beat Utah and advance to Round 2 of the playoffs.

PHI at LAC: Dec. 31, 9:30 p.m. ET, LP – Brand returns to the STAPLES Center. It’s New Years so you know only the most diehard fans will be out … Lose your date for a few and see how they greet him.

(LP* = League Pass)

-- By John Jacobson

At his best, Ron Artest is a top 10 talent in the league in terms of being able to shut his man down one-on-one on defense while also possessing the offensive skills to drop 25-30 points on any given night. At his worst, he is a distraction and bad for team cohesion. Who is going to show up for the Rockets, Dr. Ron Jekyll or Mr. Hyde-Artest?

Artest will team with a healthy Yao Ming, a rested Tracy McGrady and a deep Houston squad that could be one of the strongest contingents in the league in 2008-09. They'll face a Dallas team that will start its first full season with Jason Kidd manning the point.

Afterwards, ESPN's coverage continues with a rematch of last season's game of the year, the Suns vs. the Hornets. New Orleans should be a team to watch next season with Chris Paul running the show and two-time NBA champion James Posey joining the fold.

New Orleans @ Oklahoma City, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Oklahoma City was the temporary home for the Hornets while New Orleans was recovering from Hurricane Katrina during the 2005-06 and '06-07 seasons and in '08-09 it becomes the permanent home for Kevin Durant and Co. This game isn't just about the pomp and circumstance of a newly relocated franchise making its national TV debut however; OKC's draft choice Russell Westbrook will face a tough test in his early development at point guard by squaring off against CP3.

Philadelphia @ Detroit, 8 p.m. ET, League Pass
Philadelphia sneaked its way into the playoffs last season with a 40-42 record, but was able to steal two games from the perennial-power Pistons in the First Round before bowing out. What kind of problems will Philly pose for Detroit now that two-time All-Star Elton Brand is plugging up the middle? The Pistons have made it to six straight Eastern Conference Finals series, but only have one ring to show for it. The Sixers have only made it to the postseason three out of the last six years, and each time got ousted by Detroit. The addition of Brand could shift the balance of power in the East unless the Pistons' young core of Rodney Stuckey, Arron Afflalo and Jason Maxiell can lift their games as Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton enter the latter stages of their careers.

Houston @ New Jersey, 7:30 p.m. ET, League Pass
Last season it was dubbed the "Chinese Super Bowl" as an estimated 200 million people tuned in to see Yao Ming and the Rockets face off against Yi Jianlian and the Bucks. Now Yi is on the Nets and he will square off against his Olympics teammate Yao for the third time of his career. Yao won both meetings last season, it will be interesting to see if Yi can make the personal score 2-1 against Yao now that the sweet-shooting forward has new teammates to work with.

New Orleans at Orlando, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
San Antonio @ Phoenix, 2:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Boston @ LA Lakers, 5 p.m. ET, ABC
Washington @ Cleveland, 8 p.m. ET, TNT
Dallas @ Portland, 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Once you get all of your family obligations out of the way, how about christening that new HD flat screen you got by tuning in to a full day of hoops? ESPN starts the day off with CP3 against Dwight Howard. You know what happened between the two of them before. Then ABC continues the action with a double-header, starting with two-time MVPs Steve Nash and Tim Duncan going at it, followed by a rematch of The Finals with the Celtics and the Lakers renewing their rivalry once again. If that's not enough, TNT has you covered at night with LeBron and the Cavs hosting Gilbert Arenas and the Wizards, the team that Cleveland has downed in the playoffs the last three years. The last game of the day is the Mavericks against the Trail Blazers where you'll get to see the old guard (Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki) try to stave off the next wave (Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge).

Now you know why it's called the most wonderful time of the year.

Utah @ LA Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET, League Pass
This one makes the cut for the true hoop heads. The Jazz might have the most balanced roster in the West, while the Lakers should be contending for the best record in the league. L.A. booted Utah from the playoffs in the Western Conference Semifinals last year, but not before the Jazz took the Lakers to six games and threw every defense imaginable, including the kitchen sink, at Kobe Bryant. It should be a good gauge for Jazz fans to see if their team is really a contender and certainly worth watching for any Kobe followers who like to see him deal with Ronnie Brewer's athleticism one possession, Andrei Kirilenko's length the next and Deron Williams' quickness on subsequent trips down the floor.

Cleveland @ LA Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Who is the best player in the league today? The discussion usually begins and ends with two names: Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. If you would have had the chance to see Wilt and Russell in their prime, you would have done anything to see the game, right? Same goes for Bird and Magic, Oscar and Elgin, Jordan and Barkley, etc. You get that chance with Kobe and LeBron. You might want to set up your TiVo. Like, now.

Phoenix @ Miami, 7:30 p.m. ET, League Pass
The Heat was the third team that Shaquille O'Neal played with in his illustrious career and his stint in Miami resulted in the fourth ring for the Big Aristotle. There's sure to be a goosebump moment when Shaq is introduced to the South Beach crowd for the first time since being traded to the Suns for Shawn Marion last season. Can you dig it?