Tuesday, August 7, 2007

NBA's Top 2007-08 Games

With the recent announcement of the 2007-08 NBA schedule, writers across the web have profiled some of the most intriguing games of the upcoming season.

I already highlighted five Milwaukee Bucks games. Not that any of us would be missing those.

Marty Burns picked ten compelling games for SportsIllustrated.com

The wild playoffs and busy offseason made for some easy choices. One juicy pick was the Dallas Mavericks at Golden St. Warriors playoff rematch on November 8. He also pinpointed Kevin Garnett’s return to Minnesota on February 8.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein went further, circling seemingly every date on the NBA calendar. Well, forty-two days by my count.

He even picked a Bucks game:

"Feb. 2: Houston at Milwaukee (NBA TV)

Yao Ming -- and the Chinese media armada -- goes to Brewtown to square off with The Big Yi . . . assuming Yi Jianlian is a Buck by then. (On Nov. 9 the Bucks are in Houston, incidentally, if Yi makes it to Milwaukee for the start of the season.)"

Still, a handful of games with interesting, perhaps more subtle story lines, went unmentioned. To avoid overlap, I’ve compiled a list of five games chosen by neither Burns nor Stein:

  • Wednesday, November 21 – Toronto Raptors at Memphis Grizzlies

These two franchises, born in 1995-96, are natural, mutual measuring sticks.

The Raptors got a quicker jump out of the gate, winning five more games behind Rookie of the Year point guard Damon Stoudamire.

The trend continues today, with the Raptors coming off a division title and the Grizzlies now the longest of shots for postseason play.

Nevertheless, there are intriguing parallels entering 2007-08. Both clubs are led by star, often overshadowed, power forwards in Chris Bosh and Pau Gasol. In addition, this game should offer us the first NBA game pitting two of Spain’s finest guards. Juan Carlos Navarro is headed to Memphis and Jose Calderon is already a valuable component of the Raptors.

  • Tuesday, January 8 – New York Knicks at Chicago Bulls

The Knicks have remodeled yet again, but repeated recent failures haven’t lent much optimism that the latest mixture of talent, now starring Zach Randolph, will suddenly mesh. Talent resides in The Big Apple, but this game, the team’s third consecutive road game following daunting stops in San Antonio and Houston, could be the tipping point of the team’s yearling unraveling.

On the flipside, if the Knicks are rolling a couple months into the season, this classic big-city rivalry could be reborn on this night.

  • Sunday, March 30 – Washington Wizards at Los Angeles Lakers

In last year’s Staples Center showdown between two of the most entertaining players in the NBA, Gilbert Arenas out-Kobe’d Kobe Bryant 60-45 and a came away with a win.

Bryant partially returned the favor by winning both the individual competition 39-37 and the team game in the nation's capital a month and a half later.

Still, Bryant isn’t one to be outdone and Arenas got the better of him last year. Combine the personal rivalry with the fact both stars are coming off frustrating ends to their seasons and you can expect more scintillation.

  • Tuesday, April 8 – Utah Jazz at New Orleans Hornets

The Jazz visit New Orleans, where they called home from 1974-78.

Pete Maravich typified the virtuosity of Duke Ellington's jazz in his five magical years when the Jazz more naturally played in New Orleans.

This present-day game will showcase a couple of wondrous court wizards that would make Pistol Pete proud. Picked third and fourth in the 2005 NBA Draft respectively, Deron Williams and Chris Paul make this a must-see.

  • Wednesday, April 16 – New Jersey Nets at Boston Celtics

It’s difficult to forecast which final regular season games will matter, but something tells me that in the suddenly crowded Eastern Conference playoff picture these two teams could be playing for important seeding down to the wire.

Just in case, check out the first three times they meet, starting Saturday, November 10. Both teams are well-known for their star trios, and lack of depth. But while the Celtics are the chic pick in the East, the return of Nenad Krstic and addition of Jamaal Magloire indicates the Nets might have the more support to surround their Big Three.

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