Tag:Dallas Mavericks
Posted on: December 11, 2011 12:01 am
Edited on: December 11, 2011 2:03 am
 

Lakers nix Chris Paul trade; to ship Odom to Mavs

Posted by Ben Golliverkobe-bryant-chris-paul

The Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers trade proposal has blown up.

After three days of negotiations that reportedly included two potential 3-team trade frameworks that would have sent the New Orleans Hornets All-Star point guard to the Lakers, word on Saturday night is that Los Angeles has abandoned those talks to head in a different direction.

ESPN.com and DraftExpress.com both reported that the Lakers have pulled out of the 3-team discussions, which also included the Houston Rockets. ESPN.com further reported that the Lakers will trade forward Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks, who earlier received a large trade exception in return for trading center Tyson Chandler to the New York Knicks, in exchange for "unspecified draft considerations." The Dallas Morning News later reported that the pick will be top-20 protected with the Mavericks having six years to decide when to turn it over to the Lakers.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com confirms that the Lakers are "out of the Chris Paul talks and will trade Lamar Odom to Dallas into exception created by Tyson Chandler." Odom's 2011-2012 salary of $8.9 million easily fits into the 8-figure trade exception created by Chandler's departure.

If the Lakers really do move Odom, a key rotation member and solid value, simply to acquire a trade exception and picks, then all signs point to this being a set-up move prior to pursuing another trade, perhaps one including Orlando Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard, a long-time rumored Lakers target. On Friday, Berger reported that the Magic had given Howard's agent permission to speak with the Lakers.

Another possible explanation for the trade: Odom's state of mind. After being involed in the Paul trade rumors, Odom did not attend Lakers training camp on Friday, instead meeting with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and then departing the team's practice facility, according to the Los Angeles Times

"To me, I would think it's better to stay away," Odom told the paper. "You know, the energy and all. I don't know how it's going to go right now. It's a little weird."

The Lakers' decision to give up their pursuit of Paul comes two days after NBA commissioner David Stern stepped in to veto one 3-team trade proposal and hours after reports indicated that the teams had submitted another proposal for his approval. It also comes hours after Berger reported that a "framework of revamped trade agreement" had been reached among the parties, one that was "pending approval of the commissioner."

Saturday's offer would have seen the Houston Rockets send Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and a draft pick to New Orleans, as they had in Thursday's original offer, but would have included further deal tweaks will occur between the Lakers and Hornets. The original proposal also had the Lakers sending All-Star big man Pau Gasol to the Rockets and Odom to the Hornets. 

The New York Times reported on Friday that the league urged the Hornets to get a "better, younger package" in exchange for Paul to ensure long-term success for the struggling franchise after Stern nixed the original move in his role as overseer of the league-owned Hornets. The NBA initially said the trade had been vetoed for "basketball reasons" and issued a full statement on Friday morning.

"We decided, free from the influence of other NBA owners, that the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade," Stern's statement read.

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert sent a letter to Stern that called the proposed trade a "travesty" while players criticized Stern for stepping in to block the trade.
Posted on: December 10, 2011 2:34 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 3:34 pm
 

Knicks sign Chandler, amnesty angry BIllups

Posted by Ben Gollivertyson-chandler

The New York Knicks completed two major roster moves on Saturday, formally announcing the signing of free agent center Tyson Chandler and confirming that the team has used the amnesty clause to waive point guard Chauncey Billups

The Chandler signs comes as part of a 3-way sign-and-trade between the Knicks, the Dallas Mavericks and the Washington Wizards. New York gets Chandler, the rights to Ahmad Nivins and Giorgos Printezis from Dallas; Dallas gets second-year guard Andy Rautins from New York and a protected 2012 second round pick from the Wizards; Washington gets Knicks center Ronny Turiaf a 2013 second round pick plus a reported $3 million in cash from the Knicks.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported on Thursday that New York was the favorite to land Chandler, a key member of the 2011 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. Chandler's deal is reportedly worth four years and $58 million. 

The Knicks will receive cap relief on the $14.2 million owed to Billups for the 2011-2012 season, the final year of his contract. Billups was reportedly very upset by the decision; he will now enter a blind bidding pool of teams where only teams that are below the salary cap can compete for his services. His stay in New York was short: he was traded along with forward Carmelo Anthony prior to the 2011 trade deadline.

By shedding Billups, Turiaf and Rautins, the Knicks have actually created cap space for themselves despite the sizeable offer to Chandler. They will need it. Having lined up the best 3-4-5 combination in the NBA with Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, the Knicks must now work quickly to address their backcourt, which is about as barren as it gets. 

New York's thinking here is pretty clear: dream target Chris Paul seems destined for the Lakers and Chandler was arguably the best catch in this current free agency pool, making an excellent consolation price. A premier shot-blocker and team defender, Chandler fills New York's gaping hole in the middle, making life easier for both Stoudemire and Anthony. While people will pause before calling this a true "Big 3", it's a dominant trio. Chandler is mobile enough to keep up with a fast-paced offense, but the biggest question is his durability, as he has missed at least eight games in five of the last six seasons. The Knicks will be very thin and at a major disadvantage whenever he is unable to suit up.

The Wizards did nicely here as the facilitator, grabbing a solid asset in Turiaf, who is in the final year of his contract and is paid just $4.3 million. He fills a frontcourt hole and doesn't require a long-term or big-dollar salary commitment, perfect for a Washington team that's still in rebuilding mode. The extra picks and the cash to cover most of Turiaf's deal are just icing on the cake. 

For Dallas, this is a major blow. Conventional wisdom around the league dictated that billionaire owner Mark Cuban would do everything in his power to retain Chandler, who averaged 10.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.1 block last season. Instead, he acquired a few minor assets and a large trade exception, which could definitely prove useful, in exchange for Chandler's departure to the Big Apple and must now work to fill his center hole with limited cap flexibility. Cuban's stated goal is to increase his cap space for a run at a superstar next summer, which is a solid idea. It's way too soon to rule out a repeat for the defending champs, who have also recently been linked to contact with Orlando Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard, but losing Chandler hurts, to be sure.

Billups is the big loser in all of this. Having apparently thought until recently that he was going to run a big-market, high-profile team on its way to a potential playoff run, his future is now left to an amnesty process that gives him no real control over his future. There will surely be bids for his reliable, veteran services, and the Knicks will recover financial savings if and when Billups is officially claimed.

In comments made to Yahoo Sports following the decision, Billups totally flipped out in an effort to dissuade teams from bidding for him.

I’ve been known as a leader, and I am a leader, but a leader can be as disruptive as he can be productive, especially when you carry a strong voice and people rally around you. This is about me now. This is about me, and teams should know that right now.”

“I want my freedom. My goal is to control my own destiny. And as you’ve seen in my career, I’ve never been in a position to do that. I know some teams out there are saying, ‘Oh, Chauncey will be great in mentoring’ and I’m tired of that. I’ve got a few good years left to play, and I’m not trying to come in and sit on the bench, or be a mentor. I’m not going to be that guy. I want to go somewhere and win. I want to choose.”

The goal here obviously is to create a situation where he can sign on for cheap with a championship contender or to ensure that he doesn't have to play for a middling team. Other than creating this sort of public outcry, Billups has no real leverage or control in the process. We now wait to see whether teams heed his threats.
Posted on: December 9, 2011 2:56 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 3:00 pm
 

Tyson Chandler says he will sign with Knicks

By Matt Moore  

The Knicks have their man, and it's not CP3. Even after talks broke down in a deal that would send Chris Paul to the Lakers, leaving open the possibility of the point guard joining the team he toasted in 2010, the Knicks have agreed to a deal with center Tyson Chandler. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported Thursday that the Knicks had moved to the front of the line for the 29-year-old veteran who was a key component in the Dallas Mavericks' championship run. 

Chandler joined a Dallas radio station Friday to announce he would sign with New York and thank fans and the Mavericks organization. Dallas is clearly pushing to clear cap space in advance of 2012's free agency class, which seems to be narrowing every second, with both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard heavily involved in trade rumors that would put them on teams they would then re-sign with in July. 

The New York Times reports his asking price was a four-year, $58 million deal, which puts him at an average of $14.5 million per year. Compared to the ridiculous amount the New Jersey Nets are reportedly offering Nene, that makes Chandler a steal. It's a big win for the Knicks, who need a better interior defender and legitimate center. There are injury concerns with Chandler along with his age, but in a league that's short on big men, and for a team so despereately in need of defense and rebounding, this was a spectacular fit. 

Chandler, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Carmelo Anthony now make up arguably the best three-man frontcourt in the league. With Melo's perimeter range, Stoudemire's post and elbow offense, and Chandler's ability to clean up the offensive glass, the Knicks will be in a prime position to contend for the Eastern Conference Finals at the very least. To get this deal done, however, Chauncey Billups will be amnestied, something Billups is dead set against, and the Knicks will have to find some way to bring in a competent starting point guard. Toney Douglas hasn shown flashes but not enough overall, and rookie Iman Shumpert is an unknown at this point, playing under Mike D'Antoni who's not the rookie-friendliest coach in the league.

But Chandler does address immediate concerns, and helps out Stoudemire immensely. Stoudemire is a poor help defender, and Chander is excellent at that. Stoudemire lacks the length and size to play center, Chandler is a pure five. Stoudemire struggles with double-teams in traffic, Chandler can finish off dum-offs. And Stoudemire is an attrocious rebounder and Chandler is of high caliber. 

The Knicks have a big man, a true 5. They may not get Chris Paul, but they're going to be a better team in 2011-2012. 

Posted on: December 9, 2011 1:29 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 1:44 pm
 

Reactions to Chris Paul: Cuban, Stern's statement

Posted by Royce Young

Everyone is pretty much freaking over the Chris Paul trade. For good reasons. It's pretty much an unprecedented move that completely blew the doors off the league and everybody covering it.

After it happened, the common thinking was it was the owners that pressured David Stern. There was the Dan Gilbert email which is just sickening, but he was really the only one anyone could connect to it. Now Mark Cuban has come clean to the Ben and Skin show in Dallas:

"The message is we went through this lockout for a reason," Cuban said Friday. "Again, I'm not speaking for Stern. He's not telling me his thought process. I'm just telling you my perspective, having gone through all this. There's a reason that we went through this lockout, and one of the reasons is to give small-market teams the ability to keep their stars and the ability to compete."

Stern claimed it was vetoed for "basketball reasons" saying that he felt the team was better served with Paul in New Orleans. Everyone knows that's pretty much bogus because owners like Cuban don't mind saying they disagreed.

"We just had a lockout, and one of the goals of the lockout was to say that small-market teams now have a chance to keep their players, and the rules were designed to give them that opportunity," Cuban said. "So to all of a sudden have a league-owned team trade their best player, particularly after having gone out and sold a ton of tickets in that market, that's not the kind of signal you want to send.

"Then, part two of that is all the rules of what you can and can't do under the new CBA weren't finalized until yesterday, so how do you really make a strategic decision until you know all the rules?"

By the sound of Cuban there, it seems like maybe this could be revisited after the league is officially up and running again. Maybe, maybe not. 

Would it be different if this were the Mavs getting Paul though? Would Cuban have a different opinion if his team were acquiring a great player like him?

"I mean, obviously, I wouldn't have been happy, but I would have understood because it was a conversation a lot of owners had long before the Laker deal was consummated," Cuban said. "It was like, 'Look, sure, I'd love him. Give him to me in a heartbeat.' But the whole idea of the lockout was to prevent stuff like that.

"Players will always have the right to choose what they want to do as a free agent, but the players agreed to rules that said, 'You know what? Let's give the home team, the incumbent team an extra advantage.' And that's how the rules were designed. I think they're going to work."

David Stern released a statement about the trade to try and explain what happened here. Trust me, it's not good enough and I'm sure this isn't the last word on the matter.

"Since the NBA purchased the New Orleans Hornets, final responsibility for significant management decisions lies with the Commissioner’s Office in consultation with team chairman Jac Sperling.  All decisions are made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the Hornets.  In the case of the trade proposal that was made to the Hornets for Chris Paul, we decided, free from the influence of other NBA owners, that the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade.”

Free of influence, eh? Obviously that's not true. Your owners ratted you out already Stern.
Posted on: December 8, 2011 3:51 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 5:10 pm
 

Clippers sign Caron Butler for 3 years, $24M

By Matt Moore  

Caron Butler (Getty Images)Two days ago the Clippers were considered a potential front-runner in the race for Chris Paul. Thursday, they completed the most Clipper-esque move they could make. David Aldridge of NBA.com reports that the Clippers have signed the 31-year-old, coming-off-knee-surgery Caron Butler to a three-year, $24 million deal. 

Yup, still the Clippers.

Butler has toned down some of his worst temperments in recent years. He's a little easier on the trigger finger, works hard in a defensive scheme, has veteran experience and was a difference maker on the Mavs last season before he went down with knee surgery. Unfortunately, he's 31, and he went down with knee surgery.

The offers on the table for Butler as of Wednesday included the $5 million Mid-Level Exception from either the Spurs or Bulls, to be a competent role player on a championship contender, or $7 million to go to either the Nets or Clippers.

The Clippers went one million dollars above that to make sure they got Butler. Alongside Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin, Butler will be one of the veteran linchpins for a team that needed to improve on both ends of the floor. 

In unrelated news, the NBA Board of Governors was expected to vote to approve the new CBA deal which they agreed to with the NBPA (also voting Thursday) after a five-month lockout in an effort by owners to control wasteful spending. 

Wocka wocka wocka.

Posted on: December 8, 2011 12:51 pm
 

Chandler has an offer in-hand from the Warriors?

Posted by Royce Young

The ball is in Tyson Chandler's court. Or at least the contract is. Well not in his court, but more like his hand. You get what I mean. I think.

Here's the point: The Warriors have officially offered Chandler a contract, according to CSN Bay Area.

With NBA free agents allowed to officially sign contracts on Friday, Chandler has a deal from the Warriors in front of him worth more than $60 million over four years, according to two league sources.

The Warriors have made Chandler Priority No. 1 this offseason, and they hope to get an answer from Chandler on Day 1 of free agency. The hope is by Friday the Warriors will know if they have a defensive anchor at center or whether they’ll have to go in another direction.

It's a complicated move to get Chandler though. First, the Warriors need to amnesty Andris Biedrins who is still owed $27 million over three years. That is a whole lot of money to be paying for nothing, along with the new deal you're giving Chandler. I guess new owner Joe Lacob is serious about doing what it takes.

Chandler is 29 and has had a number of injuries bite him. He averaged 10.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game last season and was of course a major part of helping the Mavericks win a title.

And with the Chris Paul trade talk swirling around and the Warriors involved, there's some thinking that Paul would love to play with Chandler again. If that's the case, then the Warriors offering Chandler a deal could be a trump card in what Paul decides to to after this season.

The Warriors have been wanting to make a change in style and structure under the new ownership and new coaching staff led by Mark Jackson. Chandler would be a major step in that direction.

The question is -- is the offer good enough? Four years and $60 million is a major offer and it's hard to see Chandler getting that from anyone else. There are other interested parties like the Nets and Mavs, but it's hard to see either going higher than that. The Mavericks have some shuffling to do if they want to keep Chandler and while the Nets are ready to spend, Nene seems to be a better fit for them.

So really, it comes down to what the Mavericks are willing to do. And whether or not Chandler is willing to give them a hometown defending champions discount.

Chandler has already said he thinks he'll be on a new team by training camp and while that could be posturing, that also could be reality if he decides to put his name on the Warriors' offer.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 8:21 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 12:47 pm
 

2011-12 schedule breakdown: 21 can't-miss games

Posted by Royce Young



When you have a season, you have to have a schedule. That's how it works, right?

Though it's abbreviated and not every city will see every team, the NBA put out its 66-game schedule Tuesday night.

And as it typically goes, within each schedules there your usual dregs and ho-hum matchups and there are big, storyline-filled mega showdowns. So let's get to it. What are the can't-miss games for this NBA season? Here are 21 you need to clear the calendar for, excluding the obvious can't-miss slate of Christmas games:

Dec. 26: Memphis at San Antonio:
It was stunning at the time, but after watching the Grizzlies rip through the Spurs before bowing out to the Thunder in seven-game, it felt like we should've seen this coming. And this was with the Grizzlies missing their best scorer in Rudy Gay.

Dec. 26: Los Angeles Lakers at Sacramento Kings
Jimmer Mania will finally get off to its NBA start and the league was kind enough to let it begin at home. You can be sure Sacto will be buzzing with the hated Lakers coming to town and Jimmer's debut, but there could be more to the hype than that. There could be a little optimism for the Kings are Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and company might have a little something brewing this season.

Dec. 26: Oklahoma City at Minnesota
Before there was Jimmer Mania, there was Rubio Fever. We've just had to wait a while for it. Anctipation! Kevin Love will finally be able to believe what he sees as the floppy-haired Spaniard takes the floor with the Timberwolves for the first time against Durant, Westbrook and the Thunder.

Dec. 27: Boston at Miami
The first meeting between the Heat and Celtics since last season's playoff series. It's no secret that LeBron and Wade don't really get along well with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The more teams don't like each other, the better.

Dec. 29: New York at Los Angeles Lakers
Maybe the two most visible franchises in the league with two rosters full of stars. Amar'e Stoudemire head-to-head against Pau Gasol is an awesome matchup, but if we're lucky, it'll be iso battles between Melo and Kobe for the last couple minutes of the game.

Dec. 29: Dallas at Oklahoma City
The first Thunder opportunity for payback and redemption would've come almost two months into the old season, but now it gets to happen right away. You can be sure the Arena Formerly Known As The Ford Center will be amped about this one. The last time the Mavericks were in Oklahoma City, they broke the Thunder’s heart with that ridiculous 15-point comeback. No way Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder fans have forgotten.

Jan. 1: Cleveland at New Jersey
Top pick Kyrie Irving will have a handful of games under his belt by the time he heads to New Jersey, but this will be his first game against an elite point guard. How will he hold up against Deron Williams? This could be a quick welcome-to-the-NBA moment for the Cavs new franchise kid.

Jan. 5: Dallas at San Antonio
The old champs versus the new ones provides a new twist to an old rivalry. These two Texas titans have never gotten along and have had some pretty awesome games over the past decade or so. You can be sure that for once, Dirk and the Mavs will have a bit more swagger in Dallas as the Mavs take the floor against Tim Duncan and the Spurs. Funny how a ring can do that.

Jan. 13: Chicago at Boston
It's the Thibodeau Bowl. The Celtics might be aging but you know they aren't going to just hand the East over. The Bulls are rising and you know they want to rub last year's triumph over the Celtics in the regular season in their face.

Jan. 14: Lakers "at" Clippers
By no means have the Clippers caught up to the Lakers, but there is a chance that this team could be pretty decent. After a horrific start to last season, the Clippers put together a solid last four months of the season. Some might be looking at this game as a changing-of-the-guard type of affair -- which it's not -- but the Clippers could definitely raise some eyebrows.

Jan. 14: New Jersey at Utah
It'll certainly be more unceremonious as LeBron's return to Cleveland, but Deron Williams coming back to Utah will definitely have the attention of Jazz fans. There's some that still blame Jerry Sloan's retirement on Williams and that whole situation didn't sit well in Salt Lake. Williams will likely feel some anger from Jazz fans, even if it's not entirely deserved.

Jan. 19: Los Angeles Lakers at Miami
I'm not totally sure, but I think Kobe is still in American Airlines Center shooting. Kobe loves beating LeBron and you know the feeling is mutual. Two of the league's biggest, most visible teams with the two biggest, most visible stars. If you aren't watching, I have to wonder what the heck you could possibly be doing.

Jan. 20: Los Angeles Lakers at Orlando
The first time the Lakers visit the Magic. The question is, will Dwight Howard be playing home, or away?

Jan. 29: Chicago at Miami
A rematch of the Eastern Finals. Derrick Rose's last memory of the Heat is LeBron and Wade storming back in Chicago and stealing Game 5 when the Bulls had it all but won. These two teams will likely be the class of the East and with this being the first meeting of the season, somebody's going to make a statement.

Feb. 9: Los Angeles Lakers at Boston
It's the league's best rivalry, maybe sports' best rivalry. Every Celtics-Lakers game is an event. I don't think I even need to give you reasons why this game is huge.

Feb. 17: Miami at Cleveland
LeBron returns, again. It's the third time he's played in Cleveland since "The Decision" and some of the sting certainly has worn off, at least in that fans won't be buying tickets ONLY to yell at LeBron. But you can be sure that an unusual amount of Maverick blue will be littered throughout Quicken Loans Arena.

Feb. 17: New Orleans at New York
Take a good look at Chris Paul and wish, Knicks fans, assuming CP3 still is in NOLA. You know he's a free agent in 2012 and you know he'd look pretty nice alongside Amar'e and Melo. But he's on the other side right now and there's a pretty good chance he's going to drive you crazy, at least on this night.

Feb. 23: Lakers at Oklahoma City
The Lakers always bring out the best in Thunder fans, and that's saying something. Kobe, Durant, Westbrook, Bynum, Gasol, Harden, Perkins -- the names are there and the games are always good.

March 25: Miami at Oklahoma City
LeBron and Kevin Durant. Two of basketballs most enjoyable, explosive talents that are always easy on the eye. The Thunder have always been painted as the anti-Heat, but the young kids from OKC don't care about making a statement for the little guy. There may be a good storyline, but it's more about a really good Eastern team versus a really good Western team.

April 1: Miami at Boston
LeBron and Wade return to the scene of one of their greatest crimes. The Heat opened the season in Boston and took an embarrassing, humbling loss at the hands of the Celtics but got revenge in the postseason, besting the Celtics in five with the final game coming on the parquet. It's not exactly a rivalry, but again, the Heat don't enjoy the Celtics and the Celtics certainly don't enjoy the Heat.

April 15: Miami at New York
The two supposed "super" teams meeting in Madison Square Garden with potential Eastern seeding implications? Yes, please. LeBron against Melo is good stuff no matter what, but you can be sure the Knicks will be trying to push the Heat with a stronger roster by this point.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 8:21 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 12:47 pm
 

2011-12 schedule breakdown: 21 can't-miss games

Posted by Royce Young



When you have a season, you have to have a schedule. That's how it works, right?

Though it's abbreviated and not every city will see every team, the NBA put out its 66-game schedule Tuesday night.

And as it typically goes, within each schedules there your usual dregs and ho-hum matchups and there are big, storyline-filled mega showdowns. So let's get to it. What are the can't-miss games for this NBA season? Here are 21 you need to clear the calendar for, excluding the obvious can't-miss slate of Christmas games:

Dec. 26: Memphis at San Antonio:
It was stunning at the time, but after watching the Grizzlies rip through the Spurs before bowing out to the Thunder in seven-game, it felt like we should've seen this coming. And this was with the Grizzlies missing their best scorer in Rudy Gay.

Dec. 26: Los Angeles Lakers at Sacramento Kings
Jimmer Mania will finally get off to its NBA start and the league was kind enough to let it begin at home. You can be sure Sacto will be buzzing with the hated Lakers coming to town and Jimmer's debut, but there could be more to the hype than that. There could be a little optimism for the Kings are Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and company might have a little something brewing this season.

Dec. 26: Oklahoma City at Minnesota
Before there was Jimmer Mania, there was Rubio Fever. We've just had to wait a while for it. Anctipation! Kevin Love will finally be able to believe what he sees as the floppy-haired Spaniard takes the floor with the Timberwolves for the first time against Durant, Westbrook and the Thunder.

Dec. 27: Boston at Miami
The first meeting between the Heat and Celtics since last season's playoff series. It's no secret that LeBron and Wade don't really get along well with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The more teams don't like each other, the better.

Dec. 29: New York at Los Angeles Lakers
Maybe the two most visible franchises in the league with two rosters full of stars. Amar'e Stoudemire head-to-head against Pau Gasol is an awesome matchup, but if we're lucky, it'll be iso battles between Melo and Kobe for the last couple minutes of the game.

Dec. 29: Dallas at Oklahoma City
The first Thunder opportunity for payback and redemption would've come almost two months into the old season, but now it gets to happen right away. You can be sure the Arena Formerly Known As The Ford Center will be amped about this one. The last time the Mavericks were in Oklahoma City, they broke the Thunder’s heart with that ridiculous 15-point comeback. No way Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder fans have forgotten.

Jan. 1: Cleveland at New Jersey
Top pick Kyrie Irving will have a handful of games under his belt by the time he heads to New Jersey, but this will be his first game against an elite point guard. How will he hold up against Deron Williams? This could be a quick welcome-to-the-NBA moment for the Cavs new franchise kid.

Jan. 5: Dallas at San Antonio
The old champs versus the new ones provides a new twist to an old rivalry. These two Texas titans have never gotten along and have had some pretty awesome games over the past decade or so. You can be sure that for once, Dirk and the Mavs will have a bit more swagger in Dallas as the Mavs take the floor against Tim Duncan and the Spurs. Funny how a ring can do that.

Jan. 13: Chicago at Boston
It's the Thibodeau Bowl. The Celtics might be aging but you know they aren't going to just hand the East over. The Bulls are rising and you know they want to rub last year's triumph over the Celtics in the regular season in their face.

Jan. 14: Lakers "at" Clippers
By no means have the Clippers caught up to the Lakers, but there is a chance that this team could be pretty decent. After a horrific start to last season, the Clippers put together a solid last four months of the season. Some might be looking at this game as a changing-of-the-guard type of affair -- which it's not -- but the Clippers could definitely raise some eyebrows.

Jan. 14: New Jersey at Utah
It'll certainly be more unceremonious as LeBron's return to Cleveland, but Deron Williams coming back to Utah will definitely have the attention of Jazz fans. There's some that still blame Jerry Sloan's retirement on Williams and that whole situation didn't sit well in Salt Lake. Williams will likely feel some anger from Jazz fans, even if it's not entirely deserved.

Jan. 19: Los Angeles Lakers at Miami
I'm not totally sure, but I think Kobe is still in American Airlines Center shooting. Kobe loves beating LeBron and you know the feeling is mutual. Two of the league's biggest, most visible teams with the two biggest, most visible stars. If you aren't watching, I have to wonder what the heck you could possibly be doing.

Jan. 20: Los Angeles Lakers at Orlando
The first time the Lakers visit the Magic. The question is, will Dwight Howard be playing home, or away?

Jan. 29: Chicago at Miami
A rematch of the Eastern Finals. Derrick Rose's last memory of the Heat is LeBron and Wade storming back in Chicago and stealing Game 5 when the Bulls had it all but won. These two teams will likely be the class of the East and with this being the first meeting of the season, somebody's going to make a statement.

Feb. 9: Los Angeles Lakers at Boston
It's the league's best rivalry, maybe sports' best rivalry. Every Celtics-Lakers game is an event. I don't think I even need to give you reasons why this game is huge.

Feb. 17: Miami at Cleveland
LeBron returns, again. It's the third time he's played in Cleveland since "The Decision" and some of the sting certainly has worn off, at least in that fans won't be buying tickets ONLY to yell at LeBron. But you can be sure that an unusual amount of Maverick blue will be littered throughout Quicken Loans Arena.

Feb. 17: New Orleans at New York
Take a good look at Chris Paul and wish, Knicks fans, assuming CP3 still is in NOLA. You know he's a free agent in 2012 and you know he'd look pretty nice alongside Amar'e and Melo. But he's on the other side right now and there's a pretty good chance he's going to drive you crazy, at least on this night.

Feb. 23: Lakers at Oklahoma City
The Lakers always bring out the best in Thunder fans, and that's saying something. Kobe, Durant, Westbrook, Bynum, Gasol, Harden, Perkins -- the names are there and the games are always good.

March 25: Miami at Oklahoma City
LeBron and Kevin Durant. Two of basketballs most enjoyable, explosive talents that are always easy on the eye. The Thunder have always been painted as the anti-Heat, but the young kids from OKC don't care about making a statement for the little guy. There may be a good storyline, but it's more about a really good Eastern team versus a really good Western team.

April 1: Miami at Boston
LeBron and Wade return to the scene of one of their greatest crimes. The Heat opened the season in Boston and took an embarrassing, humbling loss at the hands of the Celtics but got revenge in the postseason, besting the Celtics in five with the final game coming on the parquet. It's not exactly a rivalry, but again, the Heat don't enjoy the Celtics and the Celtics certainly don't enjoy the Heat.

April 15: Miami at New York
The two supposed "super" teams meeting in Madison Square Garden with potential Eastern seeding implications? Yes, please. LeBron against Melo is good stuff no matter what, but you can be sure the Knicks will be trying to push the Heat with a stronger roster by this point.
 
 
 
 
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