THE NBA schedule has been released, and there are some games featuring Australians that should be marked on everyone’s calendar.
Some will be making their respective NBA debuts, while others are in the midst of budding rivalries that could get even more heated over the course of the 2018-19 regular season.
Here are the 10 must-watch games featuring Australians.
*all times are AEST, and daylight savings is not taken into account
SIMMONS’ FIRST GAME AS REIGNING ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Philadelphia 76ers @ Boston Celtics – October 17, 10am.
The first game Simmons has to prove he won’t fall into the ‘sophomore slump’ will be one of the toughest of his season.
That’s because it’s against the one team that consistently figured him out. The Celtics eliminated the 76ers in the second round of the 2018 Playoffs, and there appears to be a budding rivalry between the two teams.
There’s a lot packed into this one game, with the least being that it’s the opening game of the regular season. Both teams will want to bring it, in order to open their respective campaigns with a bang. It would be a big confidence boost if Simmons can come out on top.
Also something exciting to look out for in this one: Jonah Bolden’s NBA debut.
WE MAY FINALLY GET SIMMONS VS EXUM
Utah Jazz @ Philadelphia 76ers – November 17, 9am
Injuries on injuries have meant we’ve been robbed of seeing Simmons and Danté Exum, childhood friends from Melbourne, go up against each other.
First, it was Simmons foot issue, then Exum injuring his shoulder. So now, after more than two years, we may finally get to see it, and chances are both players will be prominent. We know what Simmons means to the 76ers, but Exum will also likely be a key part of the Jazz’s core.
Of course, Joe Ingles will also be involved here, but the battle between two of Australia’s best young players isn’t one to miss.
RYAN BROEKHOFF’S NBA DEBUT
Dallas Mavericks @ Phoenix Suns – October 18, 12:30pm
The Dallas Mavericks’ first game of the season is against the Suns, and we may see the latest Australian in the NBA hit the court for the first time.
Broekhoff is a talented wing who can stretch the floor as well as anyone, so let’s see if Rick Carlisle unleashes him against this young team, allowing him to experience his NBA debut during the Mavericks’ first game of the season.
COULD IT BE THE LAST WE SEE OF DELLY OR THON IN MILWAUKEE?
Washington Wizards @ Milwaukee Bucks – February 7, 10am
This is the Bucks’ last game before the NBA’s trade deadline.
With both Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker mentioned in trade talks over the past 12 months, this one may be a must-watch, because there’s a chance it’s the last time we see at least one of them in a Bucks uniform. That, of course, is assuming the Bucks wait until the dying moments to make this sort of trade; if that’s their desire.
Of course, we have to see how their season plays out, but all signs have been pointing to change in Milwaukee, and it could start with their Australians.
TIME FOR THE 76ERS TO PROVE THEY’RE LEGIT
Boston Celtics @ Philadelphia 76ers – February 13, 10am
The 76ers and Celtics will probably be the two best teams in the East, but Simmons and co. have to prove that they belong first.
That starts with winning — ideally sweeping — their home games against Brad Stevens’ team.
The 76ers lost both games against the Celtics that were held at Wells Fargo Arena, and that just won’t get it done if you want people to see you as a championship contender. In order to win, a team has to make the most of the games they’re expected to win. This one in Philadelphia would be the perfect start, especially if it was emphatic. If the 76ers can go on a roll in February, then enter the All-Star break with this win, they’d be in a very good position, especially from a confidence standpoint.
CELTICS VS WARRIORS
Golden State Warriors @ Boston Celtics – January 27, 10:30pm
After the Golden State Warriors, the Boston Celtics are among the favourites to walk away with the title. But, to become a champion, you have to beat the champions.
We’ve chosen this game because it’s the first meeting between the two teams, but there’s a good chance that DeMarcus Cousins will be healthy by then, so we’ll get a good look at how Aron Baynes is used against a team that runs like the Warriors, but need someone to stop the inside presence of an All-Star centre.
This will be a barometer-type game. How good are the Celtics, relative to arguably the greatest team of all time? How will their defensive anchor, Baynes, be used against the most versatile team in the league? This is where we’ll find out.
MILLS VS PARKER … AS BACKUPS
Charlotte Hornets @ San Antonio Spurs – January 15, 10:30am
Patty Mills has been a back-up point guard for most of his NBA career, and the majority of that was behind Tony Parker.
Now, Parker is playing behind Kemba Walker in Charlotte, so we’ll get a chance to see the Frenchman and the Australian go at each other.
What was likely a feisty battle in Spurs practice for many years, will now move to an NBA arena. Given the success the two had together, it’s sure to be a fun but feisty matchup.
CAN THE 76ERS PROVE THEY’RE UP TO IT?
Philadelphia 76ers @ Golden State Warriors – February 1, 12:30pm
This is another one of those ‘barometer games’.
The 76ers have, at times, played like a championship team, but can they get it done against the two-time defending champions? It won’t be easy, especially because this game comes in the midst of a mini road trip, right after going up against LeBron James and the Lakers at Staples.
Again, the result of this isn’t the be all and end all, but it’s a good way to gauge where both teams are, with respect to each other.
WE’RE VERY HERE FOR JINGLES VS PG13, PART TWO
Utah Jazz @ Oklahoma City Thunder – December 11, 10am
The battle between these two teams got heated in the 2018 postseason, and there’s no question it’ll carry over to the upcoming regular season, where both teams are looking like playoff locks.
Of course, the matchup we’re all waiting to see is Joe Ingles vs Paul George, with the pair exchanging blows in April, before the Jazz got the best of the Thunder.
George won’t have the baggage of a free agency decision, while Ingles will enter the season with a ton of confidence, and won’t be afraid to talk some trash. This will be a head-to-head to watch over the entire season, but the first matchup between the two teams could be tasty.
Olgun Uluc covers basketball for Fox Sports Australia. Twitter: @OlgunUluc