Analysis | These 25 games will define the 2023-24 NBA regular season (2023)


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Combine the NBA’s revolving door of superstar movement with a new in-season tournament, and the result is a recently released 2023-24 schedule loaded with intrigue and hard feelings. The season will open in October with a pair of Western Conference rivalries and Victor Wembanyama’s much-anticipated debut before launching its new tournament in November and proceeding to its annual Christmas extravaganza.

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Here’s a viewer’s guide to sift through all the playoff rematches, star showdowns, tournament additions and return visits to come between now and April. Don’t forget: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul and Bradley Beal will be heading on the road to play their former teams for the first time, while Damian Lillard and James Harden could find themselves added to that list if they are dealt before opening night.

All times Eastern.


Oct. 24, Lakers at Nuggets, 7:30 p.m. (TNT): LeBron James’s reward for deciding not to follow through on his musings about retirement will be a visit to Denver for Nikola Jokic’s ring night. The Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals, and Los Angeles will be seeking revenge for Denver’s grandstanding and trash talking during its title celebrations.

Oct. 24, Suns at Warriors, 10 p.m. (TNT): Well, well, well, if it isn’t Durant playing his former team and Paul playing his former team rolled into the same showdown. The NBA schedule-makers did well to fill out opening night with a first look at how Paul will fit with the championship core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

Oct. 25, Mavericks at Spurs, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN): Wembanyama, the top pick in this year’s draft, drew a rabid crowd at Las Vegas Summer League, and his NBA debut will come on a Texas-size stage against Luka Doncic, Irving and the Mavericks. To help calibrate expectations for the 7-foot-4 French center, James had 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds in his 2003 debut, and Doncic posted 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds in his first game in 2018.

Oct. 26, Suns at Lakers, 10 p.m. (TNT): James and Durant haven’t squared off since Christmas 2018, when James had just signed with the Lakers and Durant was in his final season with the Warriors. If the future Hall of Famers can get through their season openers unscathed, they will go head-to-head in what could be a juicy playoff preview.

Oct. 27, Heat at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN): Jayson Tatum won’t need to wait long to get another shot at the Heat after he was felled by an ankle injury in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. But the matchup to watch will be inside, where Kristaps Porzingis will need to prove his worth against Bam Adebayo.

Nov. 3, Knicks at Bucks, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN): Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks will host the Knicks in the first nationally televised group-stage game of the in-season tournament, which will run on Tuesdays and Fridays throughout November. The tournament’s long-term success will hinge on whether stars such as Antetokounmpo take it seriously or whether their teams view it as an inconsequential distraction.


Nov. 8, Celtics at 76ers, 7 p.m.: Joel Embiid saw another season end in the second round of the playoffs with demoralizing losses to Boston in Games 6 and 7. Will Harden, who shot 3 for 11 in the series finale before issuing an offseason trade request, still be in a 76ers uniform for the rematch?

Nov. 14, Spurs at Thunder, 7:30 p.m. (TNT): Back in the 2014 Western Conference finals, aging Spurs legend Tim Duncan held off a young Oklahoma City frontcourt that included Durant, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams. Wembanyama and Thunder center Chet Holmgren, who are both modern Durant disciples rather than traditional bigs such as Duncan, will launch what could be a decade-long rivalry in this in-season tournament game.

Nov. 28, Warriors at Kings, 10 p.m. (TNT): The in-season tournament’s group stage concludes with a rematch between Northern California neighbors who played an electric first-round series in April. Curry had 50 points in a Game 7 victory in Sacramento, and there’s a good chance this game will have tournament stakes to motivate him.


Dec. 9, in-season tournament championship game: After more than a month of group play and knockout-round games, the NBA will host its in-season tournament championship game in Las Vegas on a Saturday night, with each player on the winning team claiming $500,000. For the teams that advance, the contest will be an 83rd game that won’t count toward the regular season standings.

Dec. 25, Bucks at Knicks, noon (ESPN): Antetokounmpo will visit Madison Square Garden to tip off the NBA’s annual Christmas Day quintuple-header. With the holiday falling on a Monday, the NBA will have to contend with an NFL triple-header headlined by Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Dec. 25, Warriors at Nuggets, 2:30 p.m. (ABC/ESPN): Before Jokic’s triumphant breakthrough in 2023, the Nuggets were ousted in the first round by the Warriors in 2022. Denver guard Jamal Murray, who was injured for that series, will look to state his all-star case against Curry.


Dec. 25, Celtics at Lakers, 5 p.m. (ABC/ESPN): Prepare to spend the holiday watching highlights of an apoplectic James falling to his knees to protest a last-second missed call in a Celtics win back in January. In all seriousness, the first Christmas matchup between these historic rivals since 2009 should be an ideal centerpiece.

Dec. 25, 76ers at Heat, 8 p.m. (ESPN): Embiid will visit the Eastern Conference champions, who are led by his former teammate Jimmy Butler, in a game that could fuel speculation about the reigning MVP’s future. The 29-year-old center still hasn’t reached the East finals and his partnership with Harden is on the rocks, so the trade talk vultures can’t be far behind.

Dec. 25, Mavericks at Suns, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN): As if years of bad blood between Doncic and Devin Booker weren’t enough, the Christmas closer also will feature a duel between Irving and Durant following the implosion of their Brooklyn Nets partnership. This one should be high-scoring and messy.

Jan. 15, Warriors at Grizzlies, 6 p.m. (TNT): The headlining matchup of the NBA’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day slate will feature Curry’s Warriors against Ja Morant’s Grizzlies. Morant, 24, should be eligible to return from a 25-game gun-related suspension shortly before Christmas.


Jan. 27, 76ers at Nuggets, 5:30 p.m. (ABC): Jokic, the 2023 Finals MVP, will host Embiid, the 2023 regular season MVP, for a Saturday night showdown. Matchups between the NBA’s premier centers haven’t always gone as planned: Embiid has missed Philadelphia’s past three visits to Denver.

Jan. 27, Lakers at Warriors, 8:30 p.m. (ABC): While these Pacific Division powers played on opening night last year, the first of their four meetings this season won’t take place until a couple of weeks before the all-star break. James’s Lakers eliminated Curry’s Warriors in an intense second-round playoff series, and both teams will bring back the majority of their rotation players.

Jan. 31, Suns at Nets, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN): Durant will make his first return trip to Barclays Center after he was dealt by the Nets to the Suns in a February blockbuster. Brooklyn fans will probably welcome the 13-time all-star with cheers, but this will be a night to ponder the what-ifs of his ill-fated Nets tenure.

Feb. 4, Suns at Wizards, 3:30 p.m. (NBA TV): Phoenix will complete a spicy seven-game road trip with Beal’s first trip back to Capital One Arena. The Wizards, who shipped Beal to the Suns this summer after his 11-year run in the nation’s capital, have reshaped their young roster around Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Poole.


Feb. 6, Mavericks at Nets, 7:30 p.m. (TNT): Will Brooklyn fans be in a forgiving mood when Irving makes his first trip back to the borough after a tumultuous four-year Nets tenure marked by injuries, trade requests and anti-vaccine and antisemitism controversies? The Mavericks inherited Irving’s unpredictability by signing him to a three-year, $126 million contract this summer.

Feb. 25, Bucks at 76ers, 1 p.m. (ABC): Antetokounmpo and Embiid headline a Sunday matinee that could help shape the MVP conversation. Will this finally be the year that the star big men meet in the playoffs?

Feb. 27, Heat at Trail Blazers, 10 p.m. (TNT): This is the only time the rebuilding Blazers will appear on TNT this season, a sign that television executives want to be prepared in case Portland grants Lillard’s request to be traded to Miami. Don’t sleep on No. 3 pick Scoot Henderson, whose NBA arrival has been overshadowed by Lillard trade rumors and Wembanyama hype.


Feb. 29, Heat at Nuggets, 10 p.m. (TNT): The first 2023 Finals rematch won’t come until after the all-star break, so Miami and Denver should have had some time to adjust to key offseason losses. The Nuggets couldn’t retain Bruce Brown, Jeff Green and Thomas Bryant, while the Heat said goodbye to Max Strus and Gabe Vincent.

March 27, Clippers at 76ers, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN): Harden’s ugly standoff with 76ers executive Daryl Morey hasn’t exactly created a robust trade market, but the Clippers have been repeatedly mentioned as a possible destination. If a deal does get done, will 76ers fans greet Harden’s return with even more fury than they unleashed on Ben Simmons last November?



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