We've reached the dog days of the NBA offseason. The draft has
passed, the fun part of free agency is over with, and the trade
market is currently frozen in light of the Kevin Durant and Donovan
Mitchell sagas reaching stalemates.
The closest thing we've gotten to on-court news this week came
via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. In a Laker-centric piece, he
revealed their plans to run next season's offense through Anthony
Davis — and what does that really mean? — and hopes that Russell
Westbrook shoots better on corner threes.
If we're not getting games right now, and the transaction mill
is essentially paused, the next best thing is... schedule news?
Schedule news it is.
The Athletic's Shams Charania gave us an opening-night nugget on
Saturday, reporting that the Golden State Warriors will open their
season at home against the Los Angeles Lakers. A little later, Marc
Stein gave us his second Christmas note of the weekend, following
up Friday's report of a
Lakers-Mavericks matchup with news that the Warriors would
take on the Memphis Grizzlies on Christmas Day.
I want to hone in on the Christmas portion for a moment, because
it's one of many things that I get irrationally annoyed about. In
an ideal world, we simply wouldn't have basketball games on
Christmas. It truly should act as a day off so players can spend
time with their families. But if we're going to get games, we need
high-level matchups. I want to see great teams — not
historically great teams, but teams that are, or
project to be, great during the season — face off. I want to see a
mix of established and up-and-coming stars.
The league has nailed the latter with these leaked matchups, at
the very least. Putting the Warriors and Grizzlies together on
Christmas was low-hanging fruit. Stephen Curry is at his apex; Ja
Morant played MVP-caliber basketball for a large portion of last
season. Their playoff matchup screamed "this is a rivalry in the
making" — it would make sense to capitalize on that.
I do wonder if we're going to get a fully maximized version of
this matchup, and that's mostly because versatile Grizzlies big man
Jaren Jackson Jr. will miss the beginning of the season as he
recovers from right foot surgery. He was given a four-to-six month
timeline; if it's closer to six months, we may not see him
until December. The Grizzlies would likely be conservative with
him, either putting him on a pitch count, holding him out of some
games (likely back-to-backs) or some combination of the
It's easy to see the draw for Lakers-Mavs. LeBron James and Luka
Doncic are the premier point-forwards in the NBA at this point. It
screams torch-passing in a way, with LeBron on the downslope of his
otherworldly career and Doncic coming off his first deep playoff
I just don't know what to make of either of these teams right
With all due respect to new head coach Darvin Ham, I think it's
fair to say that the Lakers aren't exactly sold on their starting
point guard. Both LeBron and Davis have missed chunks of games over
the past two seasons; you'd hope both will be available by the time
Christmas rolls around.
On the Mavs front, I'm curious to see what they're going to look
like without Jalen Brunson. Sorting out the frontcourt combinations
with Chrstian Wood (shout out for the low-risk, moderate-reward
move), JaVale McGee, Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell should be
interesting. This could be a case of both teams trying to find
themselves by the time their matchup comes around.
The other three games have yet to be released, but here's what
I'd like for the slate to look like.
12:00 p.m. EST: Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers
- You can definitely sign me up for a pair of MVP candidates
(Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum) as headliners. James Harden and Jaylen
Brown bring star power in their own right. We need Tyrese Maxey
transition attacks while little ones across the globe open their
presents. Both teams project as high-level defenses, which could
put us in position to see some clutch bucket-getting late in the
2:30 p.m. EST: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat
- You have an MVP (Giannis Antetokounmpo), a bonafide star (Jimmy
Butler), versatile All-Stars (Bam Adebayo, Jrue Holiday, Khris
Middleton) and a history of fun matchups dating back to the 2020
5:00 p.m. EST: Golden State Warriors vs. Memphis Grizzlies
8:00 p.m. EST: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks
10:30 p.m. EST: Denver Nuggets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
- It's the Tim Connelly Bowl! In all seriousness, you can't snub
the MVP on Christmas... again. Beyond that, the Wolves introduced
themselves to the national consciousness with a thrilling (and
frustrating) first-round matchup with the Grizzlies last season.
Build on that and give the people Nikola Jokic vs. Rudy Gobert,
more shine for Karl-Anthony Towns and a platform for
everything that is Anthony Edwards.
If the league wants a cross-conference matchup, Suns-Bucks would
be a fun Finals rematch in place of Heat-Bucks. While I'd love to
see Nuggets-Timberwolves, I think something like Clippers-Pelicans
— with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Brandon Ingram and the
triumphant return of Zion Williamson — will end up being too hard
to pass up.
[UPDATE: The Nuggets and Suns will
reportedly face off on Christmas, according to Mike Singer of the Denver
And if we don't see fireworks with the Brooklyn Nets before the
season starts, surely they're going to get a game, right? A
Nets-Celtics first-round rematch would be on the table.
Nets-Clippers would have all the star power you'd want. And of
course, the storylines for a Nets-Sixers game would write
The NBA has some tough choices to make, but this is also a
testament to how much talent is in the league right now.