LeBron James, his new teammates and the aura of the storied Los Angeles Lakers will be must-see television all through the 2018-19 NBA season. Expect Lakers games to surpass the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in interest, whether it’s James’ home debut, return to Cleveland, rematch with the Warriors, visit to Washington, D.C., any of it. Asked about James’ arrival to the Lakers, second-year forward Kyle Kuzma simply said, “Go time!”
“We’re excited for sure,” Kuzma told The Undefeated. “We know with the guys we added to this roster that we have what it takes to contend because we are hungry, but we also have added guys with championship pedigree and a lot of experience.”
With the NBA schedule released Friday, The Undefeated presents its Top 9 games to watch during the 2018-19 regular season.
“LABron” debuts in L.A.
Game: Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers, Oct. 20
Comment: This Lakers ticket will be the hottest seller since Kobe Bryant’s final game. Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington and the elite A-list Hollywood celebrities are expected to be in the house regularly to watch “King James.” Expect James to put on a show in his Staples Center debut.
Kawhi Leonard returns to Alamo
Game: Toronto Raptors at San Antonio Spurs, Jan. 3
Comment: Kawhi Leonard went from the best player on the Spurs to perhaps the most detested in franchise history after he wanted out. The 2014 NBA Finals MVP was unhappy with how the franchise responded to his right quadriceps injury last season that caused him to miss most of the regular-season games and the entire playoffs. Spurs fans will likely boo the two-time All-Star and forever wonder, “What if?”
LeBron James returns to The Land
Game: Los Angeles Lakers at Cleveland Cavaliers, Nov. 21
Comment: Appreciation? Anger? Tears? Applause? It will be interesting to see how Cleveland natives and Cavaliers fans respond to the return of James, who departed after taking the franchise to four consecutive NBA Finals. One positive for James was that the announcement of his second departure came with much less fanfare than “The Decision” in 2010.
LeBron versus “SuperTeam”
Games: Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors, Dec. 25; Warriors at Lakers, Jan. 21; Lakers at Warriors, Feb. 2; Warriors at Lakers, April 4.
Comment: Every game that includes James and the Warriors will be must-see TV. But this will be the first meeting between James and the Warriors since the latter swept the Cavaliers in the 2018 NBA Finals. Once newcomer DeMarcus Cousins is healthy, the Warriors will have a lineup of five All-Stars to go up against James and the Lakers.
LeBron versus Trump
Game: Los Angeles Lakers at Washington Wizards, Dec. 16
Comment: This is James’ first trip to Washington since his recent war of words with President Donald Trump. The new Lakers star will certainly be asked about Trump before and after playing the host Wizards. Perhaps James does something enlightening during his trip to the nation’s capital, like go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
DeRozan returns to The Six
Game: San Antonio Spurs at Toronto Raptors, Feb. 22
Comment: DeMar DeRozan is the Raptors’ all-time leading scorer and perhaps the greatest player in the young franchise’s history. DeRozan also threw some strong words at Raptors president Masai Ujiri, accusing him of betrayal for trading him. Expect strong applause for DeRozan, who never wanted to leave Toronto and is expected to have his jersey retired there one day.
Lakers-Celtics rivalry renewed
Game: Los Angeles Lakers at Boston Celtics, Feb. 7; Celtics at Lakers, March 9.
Comment: The Lakers versus Celtics rivalry rises to another level with the addition of James. James will also play against his old Cavaliers teammate Kyrie Irving, an All-Star guard with the Celtics. The Celtics will likely be the favorites to win the Eastern Conference.
Harden, CP3 and Melo versus “SuperTeam”
Games: Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets, Nov. 15; Rockets at Warriors, Jan. 3; Rockets at Warriors, Feb. 23; Warriors at Rockets, March 13.
Comment: The Rockets and Warriors meet for the first time since the latter won a deciding Game 7 in the Western Conference finals. The Rockets are expected to add free-agent forward Carmelo Anthony to their starting lineup. While the Thunder, Utah Jazz and James’ Lakers will have their say, Warriors-Rockets is expected to be the West finals matchup again.
Tony Parker returns to Alamo
Game: Charlotte Hornets visit San Antonio, Jan. 14
Comment: Parker had an outstanding 17-year career with the Spurs that included four championships, six All-Star appearances and a 2007 Finals MVP award. The Frenchman plans to continue to live in San Antonio in the offseason and will have his No. 9 jersey retired by the Spurs one day. Expect an emotional night for Parker on his return as a member of the Hornets.
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