HOUSTON - Between the playoffs that encroached upon late June, the draft, free agency and the whirlwind that was summer league basketball, it sometimes feels as if the 2011-12 NBA season still hasn’t ended.
Imagine, then, the ensuing sensation of getting one’s hands upon the just-released schedule for the 2012-13 campaign (if you guessed it feels sort of like a potent concoction of excitement, euphoria, and a healthy dose of panic then you’re not far off). Can the start of the next season already be so close? It can, and it is. Olympic basketball is about to begin and once that wraps up it will only be a matter of time before the Toyota Center practice court is filled once more with the sounds of players who have returned to town ready to start gearing up for training camp. So much for anything even remotely resembling a peaceful, relaxing offseason.
But who needs rest when there remains so much mystery, intrigue and fascination surrounding the Rockets these days? To be sure, there’s no way of knowing what the team’s opening night roster will look like. All we can say with any degree of certainty at this point is that it is going to appear dramatically different than it has in years past. While some might find such change unsettling, it's undeniably exciting as well. New beginnings always are. And with events like the league’s All-Star extravaganza also coming to Houston,Toyota Center’s 10-year anniversary certainly won’t be lacking when it comes to glitz, glamour and drama over the course of the days, weeks and months to come.
So with that in mind, let’s take a deep breath and dive right into the new schedule for a glimpse at twelve of the most hotly-anticipated home matchups of the Rockets’ 2012-13 campaign.
Saturday, November 3: vs. Portland Trailblazers
Have to start with the home opener, during which Rockets fans will get their first look at the new team that’s been assembled over the course of this surreal, head-spinning summer. That means initial glimpses at Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, not to mention Houston’s bevy of high-upside rookie talent. And speaking of rookies who appear to be the real deal, Portland’s Damian Lillard certainly fits the bill as well after having been named Co-MVP of the Vegas Summer League.
Monday, November 12: vs. Miami Heat
A visit from the NBA champions who also happen to prominently feature the best basketball player on the planet? Yeah, I’m guessing I don’t have to sell this one to you, especially after Rockets fans missed out on seeing the Miami experience in person last season.
Wednesday, November 14: vs. New Orleans Hornets
What a year it’s been for New Orleans: Trade away franchise centerpiece Chris Paul, then win the draft lottery six months later for the rights to draft surefire stud, Anthony Davis. Ah, to be besties -- even if only for a minute -- with Lady Luck. Now you can go ahead and re-add the Hornets (who also re-signed Eric Gordon and added Ryan Anderson and Austin Rivers to their roster) to the list of Southwest Division rivals who appear poised to be a force with which to be reckoned for years to come.
Friday, November 23: vs. New York Knicks
Just a hunch, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there might be a wee bit of media coverage for this particular matchup. Quite frankly, after seeing the media frenzy that enveloped Toyota Center during Jeremy Lin’s introductory press conference, I’ll be disappointed if this game isn’t covered in some form or fashion by Bravo (Project Runway, featuring Jeremy as the celebrity judge), AMC (he’s already got the Mad Men look on lock) and HGTV (Property Virgins host Egypt Sherrod shows Lin around town to help him in his search for a new home). Here’s hoping.
Tuesday, November 27: vs. Toronto Raptors
The Rockets’ action-packed November home schedule wraps up with a visit from Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors. Houston fans not only get to welcome Lowry back to Toyota Center, but will also get their first glimpse at Raptors’ rookie Jonas Valanciunas, who will go head-to-head with fellow Lithuanian Donatas Motiejunas for the first time in their respective NBA careers. Last but not least, Rockets fans will want to keep a close eye on Toronto’s fortunes going forward since Houston received a guaranteed lottery pick in the deal that sent Lowry north of the 49th parallel.
Tuesday, December 4: vs. Los Angeles Lakers
After years of finding just about anything and everything having to do with the Lakers absolutely reprehensible, the team’s retch factor reached even greater heights a few weeks ago after they acquired Steve Nash. How does netting one of the league’s most likeable and entertaining players make a club even more despicable? Jealousy, pure and simple. No use denying it. Life just isn’t fair sometimes.
Saturday, December 29: vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Remove the blowout that occurred the first time these two teams matched up and you’re left with a trio of games that represented some of the most exciting basketball Rockets fans had the privilege of seeing their club play during the 2011-12 campaign. The eventual Western Conference champs brought out the best in Houston’s players, culminating in the spectacular “did that really just happen?!?” comeback in mid-March that still seems more like a dream than reality. It’s always an event when KD, Russ, Harden, Ibaka and the rest of the Thunder’s young guns pay a visit, so if you’re contemplating early Christmas presents, you might want to think about getting your hands on tickets for this one ASAP.
Tuesday, January 15: vs. Los Angeles Clippers
NBA fans seemed to turn on this team at one point as “LobCity” gradually transformed into something closer to “Flop City” as the season wore on. Nonetheless, there’s still nothing quite like watching Blake Griffin soar into the stratosphere in person and hardcore hoops aficionados know the Chris Paul experience is akin to sitting in on a point guard master class. Plus, after dropping all three games to the Clips last season -- the last two in heartbreaking fashion -- the Rockets will surely be chomping at the bit to exact a small measure of revenge.
Saturday, January 26: vs. Brooklyn Nets
Will Brooklyn’s offseason spending spree actually amount to much in the way of significant success or will it ultimately be remembered as a great deal of sound and fury signifying nothing? Only time can accurately answer that question but no matter how it shakes out, Brooklyn’s inaugural NBA experience promises to be one to watch given the names, and spectacular salaries, involved in this bold basketball venture.
Wednesday, March 13: vs. Phoenix Suns
Another easy sell job. This game of course marks the return of Luis Scola and Goran Dragic, a pair of players who rightfully earned legions of fans for the skill, heart, hustle and determination they showed while wearing Rockets uniforms. And if, for whatever reason, you can’t make it toToyota Center to see these guys in March, make sure you welcome Luis and Gogi back to Houston when the Suns pay another visit April 9.
Friday, March 15: vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Before Ricky Rubio went down with ACL injury, Minnesota seemed poised to make a strong bid for their first playoff appearance since 2004. And though much of their future fortunes will hinge upon Rubio’s return to good health, the Timberwolves could quite possibly be capable of not only breaking their postseason drought in 2013, but actually making some noise once they get there, too. Kevin Love is a monster, ditto for Nikola Pekovic, former Rocket Chase Budinger should provide some much-needed perimeter shooting, and rumored additions like Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko figure to make this one of the NBA’s most fascinating League Pass teams. Don’t let the Wolves’ woeful reputation fool you; it might be wise to jump on these tickets now before the general public catches on to just how fun this team could be.
Sunday, March 24: vs. San Antonio Spurs
Wasn’t the Spurs’ window supposed to have closed five years ago? Every year someone in the media attempts to slam shut this metaphorical window and every year San Antonio responds by doing standard Spurs things like making the extra pass, masterfully moving off the ball and finding no-name diamonds in the rough who come in and immediately start outperforming everyone’s expectations. Yawn. It’s almost as tired as the people who keep prematurely jumping the gun and attempting to bury this team. You know what’s not boring, though? Any game involving the Spurs and Rockets going head-to-head. Seems like each one is a lock to be a white knuckle, edge-of-your-seat, down-to-the-wire thrill ride.
While individual game tickets will be available at a later date, the only way to ensure you get to see all these games today is with full season tickets or one of the new 2012-2013 Partial Plans, including the brand new Jeremy Lin 7-Game Pack. This plan will be on sale for a LIMITED TIME ONLY and will feature No. 7 battling his former team the New York Knicks along with some of the best point guards in the league, including Washington's John Wall and San Antonio's Tony Parker.
Also available are both the Weekend and Premium 14-game plan. Guarantee yourself the chance to see the best matchups of the season in person, including games against the reigning MVP LeBron James and the Miami Heat, defending Western Conference Champions the Oklahoma City Thunder, and of course, heated rivals like the Lakers, Mavericks and Spurs.