The best games of the NBA's 2010/11 October and November schedule are invariably skewed toward the opening week. Nevertheless, there are some interesting games at other times on the calendar. Here are the ten games you absolutely need to watch.
10. Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers: October 26, 10:00 p.m., TNT
The Lakers will open up the season at home on opening night, as usual, so I'm not really excited about this game because of them. No, I'm excited because this should mark Yao Ming's return to the court. The Rockets could potentially be very interesting this year, with three excellent standstill three-point shooters (Kevin Martin, Aaron Brooks and Trevor Ariza) surrounding one of the best high post passers in basketball. This will be our first chance to see if Yao's feet can hold up their end of the bargain.
9. Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Clippers: November 25, 10:30 p.m., TNT
This is a Thanksgiving game for the basketball junkies. On one side, you have DeMarcus Cousins, who dominated the NBA's Summer League despite being a post-up big man (the kind of players who always struggle out in Vegas). On the other, you have Blake Griffin, last year's number one pick. I look forward to seeing them battle each other in this one.
8. Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder: October 31, 7:00 p.m.
Unfortunately, this one isn't on national TV, but I'm excited because last year, these two played arguably the best game of the season. Need a reminder?
7. Philadelphia 76ers at Washington Wizards: November 2, 7:00 p.m.
Okay, so I'm a little biased here, but how cool is it that the Wizards' home opener features John Wall against Evan Turner? I look forward to reviving that contrived "who should go No. 1" argument.
6. Washington Wizards at Orlando Magic: October 28, 8:00 p.m., TNT
The NBA debut of Wall, combined with the first game in Orlando's new arena? Sounds like fun to me. And this time you can't accuse me of bias.
5. Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs: November 26, 8:30 p.m.
There are a lot of supposed rivalries in this game, but none are more compelling to me than Spurs-Mavericks. Ever since Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki came into their own, those two teams have been fighting it out at the top of the Western Conference. We've seen some great series' over the years (2003 Western Conference Finals, 2006 Western Conference Semifinals, last year's first-round). This is the first time we'll see these teams play each other this year.
4. Boston Celtics at Atlanta Hawks: November 22, 7:00 p.m.
Speaking of budding rivalries, we forget this, but the Hawks owned the Celtics last year. They won all four games against them during the regular season (all great games too), something that went unnoticed as Boston marched to the NBA Finals. The two teams return largely intact, so this one should be fun.
3. Chicago Bulls at Oklahoma City Thunder: October 28, ESPN, 8:00 p.m.
Derrick Rose. Kevin Durant. Two probable 50-win teams. I'm in.
2. Miami Heat at Boston Celtics: October 26, TNT, 7:30 p.m.
I know, I know, it's the debut for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But honestly, I'm worried this one could be a rout, since Boston always struggles with fast wing players. Therefore, this game gets second instead of ...
1. Orlando Magic at Miami Heat: October 29, ESPN, 8:00 p.m.
... this one. Orlando is a legitimate threat to Miami, and this will also be the Heat's home opener. Give me this game instead of the October 26 one (though both will of course be great).