The NBA schedule for the upcoming season was released on Tuesday and there are plenty of must-see games. One theme that stands out as we look at the schedule is players returning either from injury or to a city where they made a significant impact in previous years. With so many NBA offseason moves since April and multiple superstars coming back from injuries, “The Return” will be a common storyline in the first half of the season.
These games can’t be cast into a list of “must-sees” as in you must watch them on your television screen – these are the “Must-Go” NBA games you have to attend live. If you want to really experience “The Return” of any player or coach, you have to buy a seat in the arena. Buying NBA tickets to any of “The Return” games below means you’ll be joining thousands of others in the celebration, paying of respect or raining of boos when the returning player or coach walks onto the court. Your voice will be heard, your signs will be seen, your passion will be felt, and you will share the unforgettable moment with the players, coaches, and fans in the building with you. The emotion you feel from the stands cannot be experienced at home on your couch.
Find a list of the “Must-Go” games in the category of “The Return” after the jump
Oct 29: Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat
Derrick Rose sat out all year after his ACL tear in the 2012 Playoffs and Bulls fans have waited patiently ever since. Meanwhile, the rest of the team has improved with the rise of young players like Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, and Taj Gibson. The Bulls are a favorite to challenge in the Eastern Conference, and their fans will be ecstatic to welcome back their MVP point guard on opening night even if it’s in Miami.
Oct 29: Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe didn’t miss as much time as D. Rose but his Achilles tear put plenty of fear into Lakers’ faithful. In fact, some die-hards were questioning whether he would ever return. Now doctors are saying he will be back on the court for opening night. If Kobe can pull off this quick comeback he will get a Hero’s welcome at Staples Center.
Oct 30: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz
Russell Westbrook injured his right knee in Game 2 of the opening round of the 2013 NBA playoffs against the Houston Rockets. A torn meniscus for the three-time All-Star point guard led to an early exit for the Thunder, in a season that had OKC playing the Heat again in the NBA Finals. Oklahoma City is a Western Conference favorite once again and Thunder faithful will be thrilled if Westbrook starts the regular season on the court and not the bench. Expect every fan at Chesapeake Energy Arena to be standing when Westbrook returns four nights later at home.
Dec 11: Los Angeles Clippers at Boston Celtics
Doc Rivers left Boston rather suddenly this summer, leaving a lot of Celtics fans scratching their heads. Boston will be in full rebuilding mode this season after trading half of their team and hiring new coach Brad Stevens. It will be interesting to see how Boston fans respond when Rivers, who led their beloved Celtics back to the top, returns to the TD Garden.
Jan 14: Cleveland Cavaliers at Los Angeles Lakers
Andrew Bynum spent 7 years in Los Angeles and helped the Lakers win 2 NBA titles. Two seasons ago he averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game in Los Angeles. Then the Lakers shipped him to Philly in the Dwight Howard trade. Bynum hasn’t seen the court and has signed with Cleveland since, but if healthy he has the chance to make the Cavaliers a real contender in the Eastern Conference. Lakers fans will likely give Bynum a warm reception but might not like seeing him in the paint once the game begins.
Jan 26: Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics
Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry were traded to New Jersey as part of the rebuild in Boston. Piece and Garnett were part of the “Big Three” who helped the Celtics win their 17th championship in the 2007-08 season. Both players were loved in Boston (the Celtics took out a full page ad thanking them for their contributions after the trade). Pierce, who played fifteen seasons for the team, will likely have his number retired among the legends in the Garden. There will be a grand reception for the two players when they return and it should be very emotional, especially for Pierce. The only problem will be for Rajon Rondo who will really have to concentrate on who he is passing the ball to once the game starts!
Feb 19: Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers
When the Lakers obtained Dwight Howard before the 2012-13 season their fans were ready to hang another Championship banner at Staples Center. The Lakers struggled to even make the playoffs, and Dwight never seemed to find his place on the team having one of the worst years of his career. His exit from LA was well documented this offseason and left Laker’s fans bitter. They will have a chance at revenge at Staples in February. Expect the boo-birds to be out in full force when the Rockets come to town.
Image Credit: Gabriel Bouys (Getty Images)