This afternoon the NBA released the full 2019-2020 schedule for each of the 30 teams, and it's safe to say that the Celtics' schedule is full of big games. Between players' returns to their former teams to rivalry games, it's tough to narrow the list of must watch games down to just 10. With that being said however, here's the games I personally can't wait for.
10. Thursday, February 13th vs. Los Angeles Clippers:
This game is the only one on the list that doesn't have some sort of big storyline behind it such as a player returning to face his old team, a rivalry or a holiday. Unless you're someone who still revels in the chance to face (and beat) the Celtics' former coach Doc Rivers, this game could easily be viewed as just another one of the 82. The reason it excites me so much, however, is because of both it's timing during the NBA calendar year and the Clippers' talent level. The game falls on the night before the All-Star break, which is the natural point in the NBA calendar year in which we start to look ahead to the playoffs and start to evaluate teams and make our conclusions about whether they are contenders, pretenders, or just plain hopeless.
This past season, the All-Star Weekend served as a hope for Celtics fans that the team would have a chance to regroup and come back as a more cohesive, competent and consistent unit. Hopefully this year there won't be so many questions heading into the break, and a matchup against the championship-favorite Clippers can serve as an opportunity for the Celtics to enter the break on a high note feeling like they can beat any competition they face.
9. Wednesday, October 30th vs. Milwaukee Bucks:
The Celtics' 4th game of the season will have the Milwaukee Bucks returning to the TD Garden for the first time since beating the Celtics there in Games 3 and 4 of this past year's second round series between the two teams. Both of these teams are returning enough players from last year that there won't be any love lost between the two, and the Celtics should be excited for a chance to show Milwaukee that they aren't the same team that got steamrolled in last year's playoff matchup. Given that the meeting happens so early on in the season, it is also a good chance for the Celtics to show their home crowd that this group is different from last year's as well. If the Celtics are ever going to achieve anything special with this core, they will likely have to go through Giannis, and this year we could see the rivalry between the two teams take another step forward.
8. Thursday, December 12th vs. Philadelphia 76ers:
This game is the first matchup between Philadelphia and Boston in TD Garden. As if the Boston/Philly rivalry isn't enough to make this one must watch already, the rivalry will likely be more heated than ever now that Al Horford is with the enemy. This will be Horford's first game in Boston since leaving this past summer, and I for one can't wait to see how he is welcomed back. I think most fan's will welcome him back with cheers and applause, but I could very easily see some of the fans booing him because, no matter what the reasoning, they just can't accept that he would join a division and conference rival.
7. Wednesday, November 13th vs. Washington Wizards:
What Celtics fan doesn't love Isaiah Thomas? While the former Celtics guard has already had his "return" to the Garden, he did so in an extremely limited role with the Nuggets. With the Wizards, IT should have a chance to start or at least play a solid 20 or so minutes per night. While this won't be the first return of IT, it will be the first chance that Celtics fans get to see him play in person with a real opportunity to go to work. While the short-lived Wizards/Celtics rivalry is no more, match-ups with the Wizards this year will still have massive appeal for Celtics fans who want to see a glimpse of the IT we saw during his Boston days.
6. Thursday, November 7th @ Charlotte Hornets:
The Celtics' 7th game of the season marks the first game for both Kemba Walker and Terry Rozier against their former teams. Justified or not, both players should have a chip on their shoulder due to the way they left things off with their old teams. In Kemba's case, Charlotte reportedly offered him around $60 Million less than the "Supermax" deal he could have been offered. As for Rozier, he thought he had earned the starting spot in Boston even with Kyrie in town, and yet was bypassed for Kemba Walker even when Kyrie was gone. While both guys should be happier in the places they are now, there's no doubt that they'll both be on a mission to prove to their former teams that they got things wrong.
5. Wednesday, December 25th @ Toronto Raptors:
Most of us anticipated that the Celtics would face either the Brooklyn Nets or the Philadelphia 76ers on Christmas Day, but that won't be the case. The Celtics will still have a Christmas day game, but it will be against the defending champs in their own stadium instead.
4. Monday, January 20th vs. Los Angeles Lakers:
In a packed slate of primetime match-ups on MLK Day, the Celtics will host the new-look LA Lakers. While the rivalry isn't nearly what it once was, things could and should pick back up between the two teams now that the Lakers will likely be competitively relevant again for the first time this decade.
3. Friday, October 25th vs. Toronto Raptors:
After starting the season on the road in Philadelphia, the Celtics will open the doors to TD Garden for the first time of the year on a Friday night against the defending champion Raptors. There's no crowd in basketball like a Boston Celtics' crowd when they get going and the arena will be as juiced up with energy that Friday night as at any other point this year. From Kemba Walker making his first appearance in front of the home fans to whatever Enes Kanter inevitably does with his #11 jersey to get the crowd going, it's going to be an electric night all around.
2. Wednesday, October 23rd vs. Philadelphia:
The first game of the season? The Philadelphia crowd raining down boos on the Celtics team they haven't been able to figure out how to beat for years? An immediate taste of what it's like to see Horford in a Philadelphia jersey? How could this game not be #1 on the list? Well...let's just say that if Horford had left on as bad of terms as a certain other former Celtic, there'd be no question as to where this game would rank. Instead, it's somehow #2.
1. Wednesday November 27th vs. Brooklyn Nets:
*IF* Kyrie decides to join his team in Boston on the 27th of November and isn't back in Brooklyn rehabbing a "thigh contusion" or "knee soreness" this game will be the #1 most watch game of the Celtics' season, and perhaps one of the 5 or 10 most anticipated match-ups league-wide on the year. The Boston crowd is known to be ruthless at times, but nothing will likely ever top the reception that Kyrie gets in his return. Saying that you can hear the booing on television will probably be an understatement for the magnitude of anger that will be flung at Kyrie from the crowd on this night, and I for one can't wait for it. Weeks before the schedule came out, people on Twitter were already talking about flying to Boston to boo Kyrie when he returned, and I certainly don't blame them as I'll be looking at tickets myself the second I finish typing this out.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images