Can't-Miss Cult Games on the NBA Schedule

There are important games, those that determine the fate of the future. ↵And then there are hidden gems, cult classics, match-ups that most of ↵the world only discovers the next day as eye-popping box scores (they ↵barely crack the highlight packages). Out of marketing savvy or sheer ↵perversion, these games—which almost invariably take place on ↵weeknights—are my domain. Here are some underground bangerz I'm looking ↵forward to on the 2009-10 schedule, with the caveat that some of these ↵could prove to be utterly unwatchable. ↵
↵
↵ ↵
↵Nov. 6, Bucks at Wolves: What makes this one golden is that ↵it'll kick whether or not Ricky Rubio ever finds his way over to these ↵shores. Perhaps you remember how Brandon Jennings was snubbed not once, ↵but twice, by the Wolves. Okay, so maybe they had to take Rubio, if ↵nothing else for (cough*demographic*cough) marketing reasons. There, is ↵however, something of a rivalry brewing there. Then they had to go and ↵take Jonny Flynn, which served no purpose but to slight Jennings, since ↵it's not like Flynn can handle the two or is more talented than ↵Jennings. Rubio vs. Jennings is important, but if Kahn were really ↵daring, he would've put them on the same team.
↵
↵No one yet knows how Milwaukee will shape up this season. It's hard to ↵imagine things going totally smoothly between him and Skiles, but ↵ownership seems intent on letting Jennings run the show. They've given ↵him athletic finishers in Hakim Warrick and Amir Johnson, and a dynamic ↵PG would, in the best sense possible, put Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut ↵in their place. Meanwhile, you've got this extremely promising ↵line-up—with Skiles making sure they'll play some ↵defense—going straight at a murky, still coach-less, Wolves team, with ↵Jennings potentially getting the chance to show up both those PGs ↵picked ahead of him. Who says swagger doesn't sell? ↵
↵
↵Jan. 22, Lakers at Knicks: Even before Lamar Odom said it, ↵I was pushing the theory that he and Artest made the Lakers the ↵league's most New York team, especially as the Knicks remain only ↵semi-relevant and don't really have any tangible connection to the NYC ↵grassroots, or even the city game. However, I totally forgot that Phil ↵Jackson was a member of the most Knick-y Knicks teams of them all, ↵arguably the one that put that franchise on the map (sorry, Starks). ↵Thanks to Dan and Ken ↵for reminding me. We haven't seen a symbolic moment like this since ↵Marbury came to the Knicks and said it was a dream come true, which ↵made everyone wonder if that team and the most visible "New York" ↵player in the league could seek rebirth together. ↵
↵
↵That ↵didn't work out, and for better or worse, there's really no effective ↵counter to the symbolic importance of Odom, Ron-Ron and Phil coming to ↵the Garden. They will get booed, but some will shed tears. Plus, ↵because there's this whole thing about New York as a basketball city, ↵and Knicks fans as knowledgeable, there's going to be plenty of talk ↵about the issue as if to prove that 1. NYK fans haven't lost touch with ↵reality after all these years of weirdness and 2. "The Mecca" still ↵means something, even if it involves paying tribute to today's enemies. ↵Anyway, expect some highly emotive quotes from Odom, Artest doing ↵something really weird when he's introduced and Phil taking photos for ↵a new book while too banged-up to coach.
↵
↵If nothing else, Spike will get it. ↵
↵
↵Jan. 26, Warriors at Kings: Both Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry ↵were highly-regarded guards in this lottery. Neither is a true PG, but ↵each will be expected by their current team to shoulder a lot of that ↵load as a rookie. There's another crucial difference: Evans is a ↵strong, aggressive, lanky anvil of a guard who frankly abused the ↵summer league competition. Curry is a three-point specialist who ↵handled the ball a lot for a middling school, and in Vegas looked like ↵a gunner with PR. Now granted, Evans went fourth overall, above even ↵teen idol Ricky Rubio, and Curry fell unexpectedly to the Warriors at ↵seventh. But they were seen as neck-in-neck for some time, and watching ↵Evans steamroll Curry could be an important lesson to scouts ↵everywhere. ↵
↵
↵Or who knows, maybe I am totally wrong about Curry, and he'll ↵emerge as a mini-Kevin Martin before our very eyes. That would make ↵Golden State's lineup even more confusing than usual, but it might be ↵the best case for him, since he's no playmaker and will have to thrive ↵on high-percentage shooting and crafty scoring if he's going to be more ↵than a role player. Also, if Curry matched up with Martin, then you'd ↵get Monta Ellis—presumably healthy by now—and Evans going head-to-head, ↵which would be some serious fireworks and a real test of both Ellis's ↵defensive mettle and Evans's ability to keep up with one of the ↵league's most explosive young scorers.
↵
↵Some other notes: ↵
↵
↵1. "Warrior Kings" is always a good reason to do anything. ↵2. As Anthony Randolph turns into the next Garnett, games like these ↵will be the real taste of things to come. I like Jason Thompson and ↵grudgingly respect Spencer Hawes, but Randolph will Heisenberg them ↵ragged, if that's even a basketball term. 3. I once saw these two teams ↵put up an 86-80 half. R. Kelly's "Fiesta" was on the jukebox and I ↵wondered if someone was playing an elaborate prank on me. ↵4. Francisco Garcia is my favorite player no one cares about, and when ↵the tempo increases, he looks up and sees a different sky than the rest ↵of us. Especially since Ziller just told me that he thinks this is Garcia's year. ↵
↵
↵Mar. 19, Bobcats at Hawks: A perennial favorite of mine, one ↵that has changed shape over the years as the Hawks have grown into a ↵playoff team and the Bobcats fell into the hands of MJ and Larry. It ↵used to be a super-stupid shootout that lead to embarrassment for both ↵coaches. Now it's basketball royalty trying to usurp a semi-regional ↵semi-rival, trying to play catch-up and make it a real rivalry again. ↵Or actually, since before it was totally bastard basketball of the ↵highest order, attain the high standard the Hawks have since moved up ↵to. I can't say I didn't prefer the wide-open groove-fest Hawks/Bobcats ↵used to promise, but if there's ever a possession where Jamal Crawford ↵drives on Boris Diaw and Tyson Chandler, someone needs to take a ↵picture and send it to me. That's like the Loch Ness monster of my ↵basketball world.
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↵For more NBA coverage, visit SportingNews.com's new NBA blog, The Baseline.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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