D'Angelo Russell, Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

With the release of the full 2019-2020 schedule, here are five can’t-miss Brooklyn Nets games next season.

On the first day of Genesis, the Basketball Gods said: “Let there be light!… and the release of the 2019-2020 NBA schedule.”

Yes! Rejoice, my fellow NBA fanatics! The dark days of this abruptly horrid offseason have finally reached a pause. For those of you (like me) who ignore baseball altogether and could care less about NFL training camp, August… well… it’s been a nightmare.

#NBADeadSeason is over, at least for a few weeks. Here’s a look at the five most compelling games on the Brooklyn Nets‘ 2019-20 schedule.

#5 Mar. 25, 2020 vs. L.A. Clippers

Slotting the Clippers in at No. 5 over teams like the Lakers, the Rockets, and even the Kings may raise some eyebrows. You’re looking at the top-two teams in bench scoring per game last season… killer rivalry, I know.

But, obviously, quite a bit has changed for both understudy franchises.

Neither one of LA’s superstar newcomers — Kawhi Leonard nor Paul George — has bad blood with the ballers in Brooklyn. The closest thing (I guess?) to any sort of history was PG’s game-winner that sank the Nets during last December’s dreaded 23-point choke job. But, again, I’ll bet the young Nets — and not Paul George — are the ones who look back at this moment with gritted teeth.

The real reason this is a marquee matchup is because of the potential return of Brooklyn’s lucky No. 7. And no, not that guy.

This one.

The more optimistic members of the Nets community have spent the summer daydreaming of a late-March return from Mr. Kevin Durant. If this comes to fruition, expect the home meeting with the LA Clippers to be a cream of the crop second-half highlight of the regular season.

Assuming that Durant appears even 80% of his old self, the 7 p.m. EST game will boast four of the top-12 players in this league: Durant, Leonard, George, and Kyrie Irving — none of whom were members of either franchise just two months ago.

The outcome of this game may present us with the unofficial winner of the 2019 offseason… Well, for one game, at least.

In fact, we could be looking at the first meetup of a brewing NBA Finals rivalry. With Warriors-Cavaliers long out of the picture, Clippers-Nets could be the new hot ticket in town.

#4 Oct. 25, 2019 vs. New York Knicks

It’s only right we include the second game of the season.

While the first game on Brooklyn’s schedule is a bit… underwhelming (sorry Wolves fans), the “Nets vs. Knicks Hundred Years’ War” is suddenly touchier than ever. A relationship that was once as uneven as a rickety old chair has swiftly been wobble-stopped and flipped on its axis. No longer are the Knicks the premier (and only) New York basketball destination. See for yourself:

  • In 2018-2019, Brooklyn reached the playoffs by squeaking in at 42-wins while the Knicks clinched the worst record in the league.
  • According to the 2019-20 NBA schedule, the Nets bested the Knicks 12-3 in terms of National TV appearances next season.
  • But my favorite: Hey, remember when Knicks owner James Dolan told YES Network’s Michael Kay the Knicks were poised for a successful offseason in terms of free agents? Those sought-after free agents signed with the hated team across the pond.

That’s a lot of ammo for a rivalry that was once deemed as somewhat fruitless. To be clear, the actual game itself won’t exactly be must-watch television; the Nets will still be working Kyrie Irving into their offense, while the Knicks are an oddly-constructed 30-win-capable-ish team. But one can only imagine the sheer cruelness of jeers coming from the fans at Barclays Centers. Brooklyn Brigade, do your thing!

Brooklyn Nets

#3 Feb. 5, 2020 vs. Golden State Warriors

What’s the opposite of a grudge match? A love-fest? Well then, expect this not-so-heated head-to-head to be one step further than that.

To say that these two teams have a charitable past would be a gross understatement. This summer, the Nets extended the olive branch by organizing a last-minute sign-and-trade with the Golden State Warriors for Kevin Durant — who, by the way, already had his ticket punched to Brooklyn. This move did three things:

  • It helped the Golden State Warriors squeeze under the hard cap.
  • The deal placed D’Angelo Russell — who led the Nets to the playoffs and propelled Brooklyn into the KD sweepstakes — softly into a fantastic situation with a great developmental franchise.
  • It also helped general manager Sean Marks add to his undying asset pool of picks (a 2020 Golden State first-rounder, top-20 protected).

Oh, and all that “the Warriors misdiagnosed Kevin Durant’s injury” noise? Consider that stuff as good as dead, too. In the now-famous interview with Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, Durant had this to say about those unsavory Golden State rumors:

“Hell, no. How can you blame [the Warriors]? Hell, no. I heard the Warriors pressured me into getting back. Nobody never said a word to me during rehab as I was coming back. It was only me and [director of sports medicine and performance] Rick [Celebrini] working out every day. Right when the series started, I targeted Game 5. Hell, nah. It just happened. It’s basketball. S— happens. Nobody was responsible for it. It was just the game. We just need to move on from that s— because I’m going to be back playing.”

Do you hear that sound? That’s the scream of death from every conceivable “the Golden State Warriors have some serious bad blood with the Brooklyn Nets” storyline.

It will be truly bizarre to see Russell hoist high-arching floaters and quick-release threes against the Nets. Unlike some of the other games on this list, expect the Barclays Center crowd to be supportive against their former All-Star’s new team. Don’t get me wrong, though, this will be must-watch TV. Playing spectator to the homecoming of the most marketable Nets player in recent history?

Yeah, sign me up.

#2 Nov. 25, 2019 @ Boston Celtics

You may notice that this is the first (and only) away game on the list.

That is by design. No, I am not rehashing the source of bad blood between Brooklyn’s new point guard and the Beantown Celts. That point has thoroughly been beaten 150,000 feet in the ground.

While Marcus Smart may still look upon his old teammate with a smile of approval, some of Kyrie Irving’s other former co-workers *cough cough, Jaylen Brown* likely have this date circled on their calendars.

The fans at the TD Garden aren’t exactly known for their hospitality — even if this means booing the home team.

One can only imagine how they react to the player who left them high-and-dry during the offseason.

We’re still just six years removed from Danny Ainge weaseling his way into that blockbuster trade — a trade that sent the Nets into the depths of hell for nearly half a decade. Since that time, Brooklyn certainly turned the tables on their Eastern Conference competitor. In one short summer, Marks grabbed two free agents that were higher-profile than any of Ainge’s crown jewels (sorry, Al Horford and Gordon Hayward).

Even better, without the use of any of their own first-round picks, the Nets developed the first (and only) under-23-year-old All-Star since that infamous trade. Keep in mind, Jayson Tatum certainly has the opportunity to join D’Angelo Russell with an illustrious All-Star selection of his own in the very near future. But for now, Marks, the Nets, and Russell, for that matter, enjoy some serious bragging rights over the division rival.

An underlying storyline: the Kemba Walker-Kyrie Irving face-off could be the showdown that eventually determines the best point guard in the Eastern Conference next season. I touched on this in greater detail when comparing the Nets to the rest of the East, but it’s pretty tough to discern a clear superior between these two pseudo-contenders. While health could be the deciding factor for the Brooklyn Nets’ season, the emergence of a second scoring option will be equally as important to Boston’s success. In all likelihood, this is the first of four bloodshed battles between two middle-of-the-pack teams.

Plus, can you imagine if this ends up being a playoff-series preview? Sheesh!

#1 Dec. 15, 2019 vs. Philadelphia 76ers

It’s no secret that Brooklyn isn’t particularly fond of Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.

After “The Process” landed a stray elbow into the chin of Brooklyn’s soft-spoken shot-erasing center Jarrett Allen during Game 2 of last season’s first-round series, there’s plenty of reason for fury from the Barclays crowd. I mean, c’mon, this play is just dirty. Ain’t no way around it.

It’s a shame that Jared Dudley isn’t around anymore to antagonize Philly’s other young All-Star, Ben Simmons. I doubt that anyone on Brooklyn’s current roster has the gall to call Simmons an “average half-court player.”

But still, even without Dudley, these teams don’t exactly get along. I wouldn’t put it past the always chippy Rodions Kurucs to land a flagrant slap or push during one of his four meetups with the 76ers. He sure wasn’t afraid to bring alllll the smoke back in April’s Game 5.

Here’s a big positive for Brooklyn: Their new All-Star point guard has an affinity for sinking the star-studded Sixers. We’re just eight months removed from Irving dropping 40 on the Sixers. Plus, a gut-wrenching overtime dagger.

Hmm, this Kyrie Irving guy seems like he’ll fit right in. Viva La budding Sixers rivalry, my friends!

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