By releasing the full schedule on Wednesday, the NBA succeeded in making us yearn for it. The rosters were finalized weeks ago, but now the games have been put in place, too. We know when DeAndre Jordan will face a restless Dallas horde at the American Airlines Center, when LaMarcus Aldridge will make an emotional return to his nine-year home of Portland, when Kevin Durant will set foot in his hometown D.C. and all the other key storylines for each team. Unfortunately, it's still more than two months away.
In the meantime, though, you can start setting your schedule however you want. Circling dates with pen on that cute kittens calendar you bought for $5 at Walmart? Sure. Google alerts for every nationally televised showdown? That will do the trick. An elaborately planned schedule optimized so you can see as many of the best games during the NBA's opening week? Whatever works for you, man.
Whatever your method, here's 10 games that you need to highlight in same manner or another.
10. Spurs at Trail Blazers, Nov. 11
The game itself shouldn't be particularly entertaining, but seeing Aldridge back in Portland in another jersey should bring emotions to the surface. Mostly good ones, you'd hope, with the Trail Blazers and their fans appreciating Aldridge's time in their city while understanding why he was ready to move on.
Remember when Houston fell behind 3-1 and beat the Clippers anyway? The cores of Los Angeles and Houston are the same (thanks to one major offseason reversal that we'll get to later on), so you know that series is still fresh on the players' minds.
8. Heat at Cavaliers, Oct. 30
This game is interesting for more reasons than just LeBron James against Miami, although that's certainly a large factor here. The Heat have an unknown mismatch of players who could be really good but haven't spent hardly any time together. Against a team fresh off an NBA Finals loss, the Heat get a national television chance to show their potential.
7. Clippers at Warriors, Nov. 4
Is this Golden State's new biggest worry in the Western Conference? The Clippers are better, but so is every other Western Conference contender. It's seriously getting unfair to play basketball past the Mississippi River (no, Sacramento doesn't count) due to an absurd wealth of talent. Regardless, this is just an early season preview of a potentially fabulous playoff series that could be down the line.
6. Spurs at Warriors, Jan. 25
They play four times, but somehow, Golden State and San Antonio don't face each other until late January, more than halfway into the season. By then, Aldridge should be fully integrated into his new silver-and-black digs and Tim Duncan should be in full take-every-other-game-off swing, but seeing the rejuvenated Spurs take on the reigning champions is a West Finals preview that must be seen.
Surprisingly, this game is only on NBA TV, because let's be honest: this is going to be the Year of Durant. No NBA story this decade has been bigger than LeBron James leaving Cleveland and then returning four years later, and while Durant is not quite the same level of star, he's close. His impending free agency, coupled with his occasional headline-drawing comments and the upcoming NBA salary cap jump, will dominate the NBA news cycle for the entire season. There's nothing like an appearance in his hometown of D.C. to kick off the rumor cycle.
4. Pelicans at Warriors, Oct. 27
Opening day is always a treat and the NBA's newest budding rivalry is no different. The NBA has these two teams matching up against each other twice in the first week of the season and it's no real surprise: Stephen Curry has turned into a bonafide superstar while Anthony Davis is on the doorstep of surpassing LeBron and becoming the NBA's best player. While the first game of the season doesn't actually mean anything, this is a perfect way for basketball to return its beautiful self to our television screens.
3. Cavaliers at Warriors, Christmas Day
There's only a few things on Earth better than an NBA Finals rematch and this is totally legal! As has become customary for the NBA's Christmas Day slate, Golden State, the defending champions, nabbed the prime time slot at 5 p.m. ET. They'll face LeBron, who did his damndest to overcome Cleveland's injuries last June but ultimately fell to the Warriors' brash array of three-pointers and highlight plays. Seeing these two teams go at it again, hopefully with a fully healthy Cleveland roster this time around, is an offer that's irrefutable.
2. Spurs at Thunder, Oct. 28
The saying "the rich get richer" isn't good enough to describe what San Antonio did this summer, because it's not just rich -- it's a 20-year dynasty that has the basketball equivalent of an entire country's GDP. Not a small one, either, but France's GDP or something. Seeing Aldridge make his debut next to Duncan and Kawhi Leonard should only exist as a fan fiction, but Gregg Popovich somehow pulled it off anyway. Across from the new-look Spurs is our old friend Durant, who only played 27 games last year. If not for Aldridge, the first storyline for this game would be his upcoming 2016 free agency; regardless, this game is full of so many fascinating things that you can't miss it.
1. Clippers at Mavericks, Nov. 11
"Just kidding," Jordan said, five days after verbally agreeing to a contract with the Dallas Mavericks. In his first appearance at the American Airlines Center since the fated "Indecision," Maverick fans will get a chance to reply back, surely in a deafening chorus of boos anytime he so much as breathes. Dallas was screwed by his decision in several ways: it lost a 26-year-old center who it was prepared to turn into a franchise building block and it lost any chance to pursue a secondary target, most of which signed during the brief period that the Mavericks believed Jordan to be in the bag. On the other hand, Los Angeles will be sure to show Jordan exactly why he made the right decision by attempting to crush Dallas. There won't be a game this entire regular season that can match the energy of this one.