2013 Houston Rockets schedule: Dwight Howard brings more entertainment

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Howard makes the Houston Rockets more watchable and their schedule more drama-filled.

Now that the off-court spotlight has dimmed on the drama surrounding LeBron James thanks to his two championships, Dwight Howard has become the target of many NBA pundits. He's also one of the best big men in the game, and because of that the Houston Rockets will gladly take whatever comes with him.

The Rockets will likely be fighting for a top-four seed in the Western Conference. Howard alone makes for a number of games to be marked on the calendar in 2013-14.

Five games to watch

Dec. 6 vs. Warriors -- Two of the Western Conference's rising powers clash in Houston, and arguably, the Warriors and Rockets are the two teams in the conference that made the biggest upgrades this offseason. Additionally, Howard met with Golden State as a free agent, making for a fun "what-if" storyline.

Dec. 20 at Indiana -- An early-season ESPN matchup should pit two of the younger perimeter stars in Paul George and James Harden against one another. In the middle, the battle between Roy Hibbert and Howard will be a treat to watch. Indiana and Houston clash with two very different styles, making it about which team imposes itself upon the other more.

Feb. 19 at Los Angeles Lakers -- Yes, the Rockets play the Lakers twice before this date. Both of those games are in Houston. The venom held for Howard in Lakerland will be put on ice for a good portion of the NBA season, but it's unlikely fans forget about how the big man left them high and dry during this summer's free agency period.

March 5 at Orlando -- Remember, it wasn't that long ago when Howard left Orlando in a not-so-pleasant way.

April 4 vs. Thunder -- Harden faces his old Thunder team in what should be a playoff type of atmosphere. It's the fourth and final meeting of the two teams, meaning Russell Westbrook should be hitting his stride after undergoing knee surgery this offseason -- he hurt himself against Houston in the playoffs last season. With more time for this rivalry to marinate a bit, it should only get more entertaining as the playoffs near.

Tough tests

After a successful season following the trade for Harden, Houston has a difficult schedule with 20 back-to-backs, 20 nationally televised games and few easy stretches. Perhaps the most difficult portion of the schedule begins Feb. 26 and runs through March 16. During that nine-game span, the Rockets have two games against the defending-champion Miami Heat and four more against the Clippers, Pacers, Thunder and Bulls. Also along that trek are outings against playoff contenders in Portland and Detroit with the only seemingly easy game coming against the Orlando Magic.

Easiest stretches

The Rockets can get hot heading into the All-Star break by playing a reasonable schedule of Cleveland, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Minnesota and Washington from Feb. 1 to Feb. 13. In mid March, the Rockets have a run of five games against Utah, Minnesota, Cleveland, Charlotte and Philadelphia before hitting the homestretch of the season, where a fight for seeding will ensue.

Important schedule facts

Back-to-backs: 20

Season opener: Oct. 30 at home vs. Bobcats

Longest road trip: Five games (Feb. 19-26)

Longest homestand: Five games (Jan. 16-24)

2013-14 schedule

OCTOBER
Charlotte Wednesday, October 30 2013 8:00 PM EDT coverage
NOVEMBER
Dallas Friday, November 01 2013 8:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Utah Saturday, November 02 2013 9:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Los Angeles Clippers Monday, November 04 2013 10:30 PM EST coverage
@ Portland Tuesday, November 05 2013 10:00 PM EST coverage
Los Angeles Lakers Thursday, November 07 2013 9:30 PM EST coverage
Los Angeles Clippers Saturday, November 09 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Toronto Monday, November 11 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Philadelphia Wednesday, November 13 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ New York Thursday, November 14 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Denver Saturday, November 16 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Boston Tuesday, November 19 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Dallas Wednesday, November 20 2013 9:30 PM EST coverage
Minnesota Saturday, November 23 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Memphis Monday, November 25 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Atlanta Wednesday, November 27 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Brooklyn Friday, November 29 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ San Antonio Saturday, November 30 2013 8:30 PM EST coverage
DECEMBER
@ Utah Monday, December 02 2013 9:00 PM EST coverage
Phoenix Wednesday, December 04 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Golden State Friday, December 06 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Orlando Sunday, December 08 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Portland Thursday, December 12 2013 10:30 PM EST coverage
@ Golden State Friday, December 13 2013 10:30 PM EST coverage
@ Sacramento Sunday, December 15 2013 6:00 PM EST coverage
Chicago Wednesday, December 18 2013 9:30 PM EST coverage
@ Indiana Friday, December 20 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Detroit Saturday, December 21 2013 7:30 PM EST coverage
Dallas Monday, December 23 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ San Antonio Wednesday, December 25 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Memphis Thursday, December 26 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
New Orleans Saturday, December 28 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Oklahoma City Sunday, December 29 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
Sacramento Tuesday, December 31 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
JANUARY
New York Friday, January 03 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday, January 08 2014 9:30 PM EST coverage
@ Atlanta Friday, January 10 2014 7:30 PM EST coverage
@ Washington Saturday, January 11 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Boston Monday, January 13 2014 7:30 PM EST coverage
@ New Orleans Wednesday, January 15 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
Oklahoma City Thursday, January 16 2014 9:30 PM EST coverage
Milwaukee Saturday, January 18 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
Portland Monday, January 20 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
Sacramento Wednesday, January 22 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
Memphis Friday, January 24 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Memphis Saturday, January 25 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
San Antonio Tuesday, January 28 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Dallas Wednesday, January 29 2014 8:30 PM EST coverage
FEBRUARY
Cleveland Saturday, February 01 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
Phoenix Wednesday, February 05 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Milwaukee Saturday, February 08 2014 8:30 PM EST coverage
@ Minnesota Monday, February 10 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
Washington Wednesday, February 12 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday, February 19 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
@ Golden State Thursday, February 20 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
@ Phoenix Sunday, February 23 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Sacramento Tuesday, February 25 2014 10:00 PM EST coverage
@ Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday, February 26 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
MARCH
Detroit Saturday, March 01 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
Miami Tuesday, March 04 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Orlando Wednesday, March 05 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
Indiana Friday, March 07 2014 9:30 PM EST coverage
Portland Sunday, March 09 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Oklahoma City Tuesday, March 11 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Chicago Thursday, March 13 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Miami Sunday, March 16 2014 3:30 PM EDT coverage
Utah Monday, March 17 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
Minnesota Thursday, March 20 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Cleveland Saturday, March 22 2014 7:30 PM EDT coverage
@ Charlotte Monday, March 24 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
Philadelphia Thursday, March 27 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
Los Angeles Clippers Saturday, March 29 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
APRIL
@ Brooklyn Tuesday, April 01 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Toronto Wednesday, April 02 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
Oklahoma City Friday, April 04 2014 9:30 PM EDT coverage
Denver Sunday, April 06 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday, April 08 2014 10:30 PM EDT coverage
@ Denver Wednesday, April 09 2014 9:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Minnesota Friday, April 11 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
New Orleans Saturday, April 12 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
San Antonio Monday, April 14 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
@ New Orleans Wednesday, April 16 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
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