2018-19 NBA schedule release: 10 Lakers games to circle on your calendar, including LeBron vs. Warriors on Christmas

There is palpable buzz surrounding the new-look Los Angeles Lakers going into the 2018-19 season, thanks in large part to the arrival of LeBron James. Ignoring the fact that his supporting cast -- which includes Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo -- has been dubbed as the "meme team," there is real intrigue as to how the 13-time All-Star will impact the young Lakers.

So that means people will be watching -- and often. Even if it's hate-watching. Because regardless of your view of them, the Lakers are rivaling the Warriors step-for-step as the most polarizing team in the league.

So whether you fall into the hate-watch category or have genuine interest in watching their season unfold in a new era, here's a cheat sheet with 10 must-watch games this season.

Oct. 18: Lakers at Trail Blazers, 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT

The first time LeBron James shows up on the court donning a Lakers jersey will be a sight to behold. That's why this one will be the first I recommend to circle, as he and his new teammates will face the Trail Blazers at the Moda Center in Portland to open the season.

Oct. 20: Rockets at Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Two days after their season-opener, the Lakers return to L.A. to play in front of their home crowd for the first time of the LeBron era. And it should be a doozy, with the Rockets, who are coming off a season in which they won the most games in franchise history, set to head to Staples Center. In tow will be reigning MVP winner James Harden and Chris Paul, who played much of his career in L.A. with the Clippers.

Nov. 21: Lakers at Cavaliers, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

When the Lakers travel to Cleveland to face the Cavs in mid-November, there will be eyes tuned in. Not because it sets up to be a good game, per se -- Cleveland may not be any good, in fact -- but because it marks LeBron's first return to Cleveland since he left the franchise as a free agent this summer.

Will he be well-received in front of the home crowd? Will he use the trip to make a statement, going scorched earth with a herculean performance? I don't have the answers. But I will be on the edge of my couch to find out.

Dec. 21: Pelicans at Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Pelicans were a surprise playoff team to some last season. But if you saw Anthony Davis play, you know they're more than just a flash in the pan. New Orleans can again be a playoff team in 2018-19 behind Davis, despite losing DeMarcus Cousins to the Warriors, so Davis' Pelicans facing off against the Lakers will be must-watch. Las time he faced the Lakers he scored nearly 30 points and grabbed 17 boards in a 119-112 win.

Dec. 25: Lakers at Golden State, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

If you've been circling these games on your calendar in black sharpie thus far, please put it down. Now head to your utensil holder, find your red sharpie, and as big and boldly as possible, I'd like you to cancel all plans on Christmas evening -- you're watching Warriors-Lakers. The reigning NBA champions vs. the GOAT. It will be appointment television.

Jan. 17: Lakers at Thunder, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

This won't be the first matchup between the Thunder and Lakers of the season -- they'll actually meet two weeks earlier in L.A. -- but this is the one I'm circling. I want to see how the Lakers can play against Russell Westbrook and Paul George, sure, but especially on the road in a hostile atmosphere like Oklahoma City, where fans take their college football-like fandom and pack it into an arena that will undeniably be sold out.

Jan. 29: Sixers at Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT

The only other team that drew buzz as a potential landing spot for LeBron James in free agency, besides Cleveland and L.A., was the Philadelphia 76ers. And it made sense, given their meteoric rise into a contender last season. That's what makes this Jan. 29 matchup one to monitor closely; Embiid and Simmons vs. LeBron and Lance should get your blood flowing. Happy birthday to me!

Feb. 7: Lakers at Celtics, 8 p.m. ET, TNT

LeBron James has an interesting history at TD Garden playing against the Celtics. When last he was in the building, he was crushing the Celtics' dream season by leading his Cavs to a Game 7 win in the East finals. This Feb. 7 showdown won't be as high stakes, but the attention surrounding this game will be nearly as hyped. Boston could be well on its way to earning the No. 1 seed by this time in the schedule.

Mar. 9: Celtics at Lakers, 8:30 p.m. ET, ABC

LeBron James haunted the Celtics last season and has a track record of owning virtually every contender in the East. But Boston's roster, if healthy, will look a lot different than it did last season. With a full-strength Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the former of which left LeBron's Cavs on his own volition, back on Boston's roster, this matchup has a chance to be a way-too-early preview of the 2020 NBA Finals.

Apr. 4: Warriors at Lakers, 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT

Yes, Warriors-Lakers is already on the list. Sue me! This will be one everyone is tuned into since it's one of the last games of the regular season for both teams. There's a good chance this game has playoff seeding on the line, so the stakes might be high.

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