The NBA season schedule is out, which means it’s time to mark your calendar for Nets nights. Here’s one crack at a top 10 list.
The criteria, in no particular order: overall quality of opponent, interesting or fascinating players, returning Nets, scarcity of games (the Warriors coming once means more than the Cavaliers coming twice), and date & time.
All of this adds up to: If I had my choice of 10 Nets tickets, which ones would I want to go to the most?
1) Dallas Mavericks; Wednesday, December 23, 7:30 P.M. I originally had Deron Williams’s return to Brooklyn as #2. Here’s why I bumped it up:
@uuords I hope there's a massive snow storm that night after the game into the 24th and he's stuck here for Xmas
— JP (@Jay2thePNY) August 13, 2015
— Michael T Raniewicz (@MikeinHhdsNY) August 12, 2015
@uuords I've never been one to boo but I'll be there 12-23 to reign hate on him the whole game
— rjc (@Rob_Starrk) August 12, 2015
@uuords glad to see the people who scheduled these things thought about giving us an xmas gift
— Matt (@BlackAndBlue718) August 12, 2015
It’s an early Christmas gift! After Williams left Brooklyn on acrimonious terms, how will the crowd — and his former teammates — react to his return? How will he play? Will he continue in the midst of his decline or be rejuvenated by his homecoming?
Other potential subplots: Jarrett Jack taking it to Williams over and over again to prove he should’ve been the top dog all along, Mark Cuban showing up to brag about finally getting Deron Williams (or lament a bad signing), Brook Lopez taking advantage of the DeAndre Jordan-shaped hole in Dallas’s depth chart.
2) @ New York Knicks; Friday, December 4th, 7:00 P.M. Counting this even though it’s an away game, because if you can make it to Barclays Center, you can make it to Madison Square Garden. Sure, Nets-Knicks is ultimately a silly rivalry, but put that aside! We’re talking the first Lopez twin matchup of the season, Brooklyn’s lone initial nationally televised game (non-NBA TV edition), plus Andrea Bargnani & Shane Larkin returning to New York after Phil Jackson called them tiny-handed teases. Even though neither team is expected to be very good, that might make for an oddly competitive game.
3) New Orleans Pelicans; Sunday, April 3, 1:00 P.M. Dream game. Anthony Davis hitting his prime? Check. Sunday afternoon game? Check. Not on the second half of a back-to-back? Check. Possible late-season playoff implications? Check. Ryan Anderson vs. Brook Lopez? Check. You can watch the most fascinating player of the next decade and still have time to do a late four-hour brunch once it’s over.
4) Oklahoma City Thunder; Sunday, January 24th, 3:30 P.M. See #3: Sunday afternoon game, a generational superstar in Kevin Durant, a once-in-a-lifetime viewing experience in Russell Westbrook, and just enough “Durant-to-Brooklyn” juice to make it interesting from that standpoint. (It’s not happening.) (Maybe it’s happening.) (It’s not happening.)
5) Golden State Warriors; Sunday, December 6, 6:00 P.M. For obvious reasons: reigning champions, Stephen Curry’s lone appearance in Brooklyn, and the inevitable ridiculous Jarrett Jack game that comes whenever he plays against Golden State.
6) Los Angeles Lakers; Friday, November 6, 7:30 P.M. Here’s why I ranked a bad Lakers team this highly: Kobe. Kobe Bryant has said that the 2015-16 season will be his last, and presuming that he’s telling the truth, it’ll be his last dance at Barclays Center.
Add in that it’s a Friday night contest (“I saw Kobe take 30 shots against the Nets one last time and then still had time to go out in Fort Greene after!”), it’s early enough in the season that he’ll be fresh, and that the Lakers also have two exciting young players in D’Angelo Russell and a healthy Julius Randle, and you’ve got a sleeper pick for entertainment purposes. Also: the Nets might actually win this game. That helps.
7) Cleveland Cavaliers; Thursday, March 24, 7:30 P.M. Ranks a little lower because there are two of them, so you have your pick. I took the later one because it’s not late enough in the season that seeding should be set, meaning that LeBron & co. could have motivation to end the season with some strong performances, and the Cavaliers will be on the second night of a back-to-back, which could tilt the scales slightly in Brooklyn’s favor.
8) Memphis Grizzlies; Wednesday, February 10, 7:30 P.M. For two reasons: first, it’s fun to imagine Lionel Hollins sending subtle overtures to his former point guard and free-agent-to-be Mike Conley throughout the game. (“Man, if only Brook could get the ball in just the right spot on that possession!”, before his eyes dart left to see if Conley is near.) Secondly, it’s the team’s last game before the All-Star Break, which means the last game before the trade deadline. If someone’s getting dealt, it’ll be your last chance to see them in a Nets uniform.
9) Chicago Bulls; Wednesday, October 28, 7:30 P.M. Opening night is always fun. It’s full of hope and new beginnings. No one feels crushed yet!
10) Milwaukee Bucks; Monday, November 2, 7:30 P.M. Barclays Center should institute a ban on courtside sodas for all these games. There’s a little less luster now than in the past, but Jason Kidd returning to Brooklyn always makes for a good time, and they started it early this year — it’s Brooklyn’s second home game. From a competition standpoint, these teams went triple-overtime twice last year; they’re both different now, there’s always a fun sense of competition in the air.
Honorable Mentions: vs. San Antonio on 1/11, Minnesota on 12/20, Utah on 1/22.