The 2012-13 NBA schedule was released on Thursday, and instantly, fans of the league began feverishly circling dates on their calendars. Rematches between last year’s NBA Finals combatants, the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, surely are on most people’s radars, as are games featuring Ray Allen returning to Boston as a member of the Heat and potential games between whoever ends up being the new home of Dwight Howard against the Magic in Orlando.
In the case of the Phoenix Suns, there may not be that many marquee games on the docket (after all, the team only appears on national TV outlets ESPN and TNT three times this season), but there are still five games that are worth circling on your handy calendar, even as the team goes through some serious changes.
October 31st vs. Golden State
Halloween night will be the opening night of the season for the Suns, and they will do battle against the Golden State Warriors.
Not only will this game be fun because of the high scoring that will likely take place, but it will also be the debut game for all of the new pieces that the team will bring to the floor.
November 14th vs. Chicago
The Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls will make their way to US Airways Center on this date, but the game itself isn’t the only reason that it will be an important one for Phoenix. The game will kick off a three-tilt stretch that will see the Suns play three of the league’s best, including this one, a road date against the Lakers at Staples Center, and a game at home against the defending world champion Heat.
This early cauldron will show what the Suns are made of, and should give fans an early indication of whether the team has the mettle necessary to be a playoff contender.
December 31st at Oklahoma City
This road tilt on New Year’s Eve will not only pit the Suns against the defending Western Conference champions, but it will also serve two other purposes.
The first, of course, will be a good end of the year test of their playoff potential, but it will also give them a chance to see in person James Harden, the Arizona State product who will be a restricted free agent at season’s end. Could there be Suns scouts at the game seeing if maybe they should put together a massive offer sheet for him following the campaign? Only time will tell.
January 30th vs. LA Lakers
This is the date that every single member of the basketball media will have penciled in as a must watch game. Arguably the biggest rival the Phoenix Suns have will be making their way to town for the first time, and they will be doing so with point guard Steve Nash, who left the team this off-season after a long run of success and prosperity.
Will fans boo Nash upon his return in enemy colors, or will they cheer for him to thank him for the past years of greatness? Our money will be on the latter, but if the Suns are in the cellar and the Lakers are flying high, then the fan base could very well be restless and in a negative mood when Nash hits the floor.
April 13th at Minnesota
This game doesn’t appear like it should be on a top-five list for Suns fans, but if the team is in playoff contention, the Timberwolves are going to be one of the teams they are battling. With guys like Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, the Wolves will be looking to make a splash into the playoff hunt this year, and the Suns are going to have to compete with them for seeding if they are in the race come April.
Besides, how fun is it going to be to see two power forwards like Channing Frye and Love exchanging three pointers?