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The 2013-14 NBA regular season tips off on Tuesday, Oct. 29. Our 5-on-5 crew breaks it down.
Kevin Arnovitz: ESPN.com: Heat vs. Thunder. The Thunder still feel like a team that, when healthy, could be a title threat every year to Miami. Before Russell Westbrook went down, the Thunder were mowing down teams en route to a championship-like differential. We shouldn't trade the Spurs-Heat series for anything, but James-Durant is captivating stuff that should happen more often.
James Herbert, Hardwood Paroxysm: Chicago vs. Miami, opening night. This is a no-brainer. I'm never more amped for NBA basketball than when I've been deprived of it for a few months. Also, I've really missed watching Derrick Rose.
Michael Pina, Celtics Hub: Friday November 1, Miami Heat at Brooklyn Nets. All the history and competitive fire existing between the individual pieces now mashed together on these two teams should make for one of the most compelling games all year. Both teams will badly want this one.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN Insider: Warriors vs. Pacers on Martin Luther King Jr. Day is my favorite on the slate. Last time these squads faced off, a hamfisted brawl enveloped the sidelines. By all accounts, Roy Hibbert and David Lee still don't like each other. Not only are these young teams quirkily entertaining, they only play each other twice a season. I'll certainly savor the rare, bitter matchup.
Tom Sunnergren, Hoop 76: Houston vs. Oklahoma City. On December 29, the suddenly stacked Rockets will travel to Oklahoma City to play a Thunder team that's both its biggest hurdle to an 2014 NBA Finals berth and the biggest reason why its in a position to contend in the first place. Two loaded teams, four superstar players, and the continuation of one of the weirdest rivalries in sports -- I can't wait.
Arnovitz: Derrick Rose with the ball in his hands. The Bulls were shaping up to be a titan in the East, a worthy challenger that could truly push the Heat for the conference title during the prime LeBron years. The drama suspended while Rose recovered, but on opening night we can press play and get back to watching Rose build an incredible career.
Herbert: Chicago vs. Miami. I'd probably pick this even if Rose wasn't playing -- when these teams meet, it's always a battle. Given that it's been entirely too long since we've seen Rose play the game of basketball, the anticipation for this game is going to be ridiculous.
Pina: Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat. The return of Derrick Rose makes opening night extra special, and these two teams could find themselves battling for the East's one seed, making their head-to-head regular season battles all the more significant.
Strauss: I'd like to look over this and find some sort of chic game to rep, but really, I'm pumped for Derrick Rose against the Heat just like everyone else. This return has been hyped for years, now. I can't wait to see how Rose responds to getting his NBA life back on a giant stage.
Sunnergren: Bulls vs. Heat. No shortage of hooks here. The (possible) beginning of the end of Miami's Big 3 era. The return of Derrick Rose. A 2013 playoff rematch and likely 2014 playoff preview. The undisputed Eastern Conference favorite against what might be its strongest challenger. Add a fresh LeBron, some lingering beef over the Bulls' snapping of the Heat's 27-game streak, and this has the makings of a great opener.
Arnovitz: A rematch of one of the best Finals series in our lifetimes: Heat vs. Spurs. There's never harm in sending LeBron James to the glitziest stage in the league to play a team that could court his talents next offseason, but the 2013 Finals deserved a reprise on the premier regular season slate of the year. So if tickets and rooms haven't been booked yet, let's send Houston, now scheduled to be in San Antonio, to Los Angeles. And let's send Miami to San Antonio instead of to Los Angeles. Everyone wins.
Herbert: Oklahoma City vs. Miami. We all know why New York and Los Angeles are featured on Christmas Day, but instead of Thunder-Knicks and Heat-Lakers, why not have a 2012 Finals rematch and follow it up with Knicks-Lakers in the battle of the enormous markets?
Pina: Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder. Even though they didn't square off in the championship last year, the rivalry between Kevin Durant and LeBron James is still a very real, very appealing thing. Why not have them compete on Christmas in a possible NBA Finals preview?
Strauss: No additional matchups, please. The NBA's gone a little Christmas crazy, and five games is too much for what remains a federal holiday. For some reason, I find it more forgivable when Christmas serves as a dramatic opening day for a shorter season, as happened in the lockout year. You could, however, sell me on watching the Clippers and Warriors play a doubleheader.
Sunnergren: Miami vs. OKC. Dear Santa: Since Christmas is the NBA's biggest regular season stage, I think it would make sense if the sport's two best teams, who also happen to employ its two greatest and most dynamic players, got to face off on it. Also: I'd like a bike with pegs and NBA2K14. Thanks, Tom.
Arnovitz: The Spurs, Pacers and Warriors. They each play nationally a fair amount but not relative to other contenders and quasi-contenders. This past June, the Spurs reminded us how compelling their brand of basketball is. The Pacers are a team the league should be eager to introduce fans to because it looks like they're going to stick around a while. And the Warriors have a team charisma that's like fan catnip. Not sure what it is, but their collective personality makes them so easy to root for.
Herbert: Indiana Pacers. They took the eventual champs to seven games and will boast a much-improved bench, yet will only appear on national television 10 times. It sort of feels like they're Spurs East.
Pina: Detroit Pistons. For Andre Drummond's ascension into becoming a rich man's JaVale McGee alone, the Detroit Pistons deserve more national air time. Add Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings into the pot and this team will be painfully entertaining, but they're only slotted for three nationally televised contests. Shameful.
Strauss: More Pelicans, please. While I understand why they stay on League Pass (New Orleans is one of the smallest NBA media markets), Anthony Davis is too good to keep under wraps. The Holiday-Evans experiment could also be fun if it doesn't end disastrously.
Sunnergren: The Detroit Pistons. Andre Drummond is a beast of a man and, if he makes good on the promise of his remarkably efficient rookie season, should soon be one of the sport's elite centers. Greg Monroe seems on the brink of a breakout. Josh Smith, flaws aside, is consistently fun to watch. Brandon Jennings is like Josh Smith, but more even more flawed and fun. This is an interesting, and potentially very good, basketball team: It'd be nice to see more than the occasional highlight.
Arnovitz: The Lakers are compelling whether it's a parade or a train wreck. But I wonder how many nights this winter we're going to settle in for a Lakers game that, once we work through the storylines, features a lot of mid-range opportunities in early offense for Chris Kaman. The Lakers didn't ask for the dates, but we might be better off redistributing a few of their 25 national broadcasts.
Herbert: Los Angeles Lakers. Despite Kobe Bryant's achilles and Dwight Howard's departure, they will appear on 25 national broadcasts, the same amount as the Heat and Knicks. It's understandable because they're the Lakers, but their play on the court likely won't come close to the national exposure they'll receive.
Pina: Los Angeles Lakers. Twenty five games of 39 (then 40)-year-old Steve Nash, a hobbled Kobe Bryant, Chris Kaman and Nick Young? No thanks!
Strauss: The Lakers, and I don't think I'm alone. Since I take no joy from their demise, I'm disenchanted with 25 games of nationally televised Laker mediocrity.
Sunnergren: The Brooklyn Nets. The Nets are, in theory, a fascinating group. All those stars! Jason Kidd and their Russian owner! In practice they're going to be an old, slow, coolly efficient unit. Competent, but not spectacular. This isn't to say they won't be good -- they should be -- only that I'm about as excited for the 2013-14 Brooklyn Nets as I was for Red 2, and for roughly the same reasons.