The NBA always opens its season with a marquee Tuesday doubleheader on TNT. One usually features two contenders from the East, and the other two from the West. The only team guaranteed to play opening night is the defending NBA champion. In this case, that's the Denver Nuggets, and they will begin their defense Oct. 24 at home against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. The late game is also from the West: the Phoenix Suns at the Golden State Warriors, as Chris Paul faces his former Suns team for the first time.
It's very unusual for both games to be from the same conference on opening night – for obvious reasons, marquee teams on the East Coast draw better TV ratings, and an East game would be in primetime for those markets. Lakers vs. Nuggets presumably tips at 6 p.m. on the East Coast (8 p.m. Mountain time).
Frankly, I'm shocked that Lakers-Nuggets wasn't the late game and something like Heat-Celtics the early one, although perhaps the NBA was tired of waiting for Miami to land Damian Lillard in a trade. DraftKings opened the Nuggets as 5-point favorites against the Lakers in a rematch of the Western Conference Finals won by Denver in a sweep. The Nuggets will raise their first-ever NBA championship banner to the rafters at Ball Arena before the game.
Denver is currently a +475 favorite to repeat, but in my opinion got worse this offseason by losing Bruce Brown and Jeff Green in free agency. Brown was the team's glue guy. About all the Nuggets did in free agency was re-sign Reggie Jackson, who was out of the team's playoff rotation. The Lakers were able to re-sign Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura and added badly needed three-point shooting in former Heat guard Gabe Vincent. It's the second year in a row the Lakers will play on Opening Night against the defending champions; they lost at Golden State in 2022.
Golden State is -1 against Phoenix. The Warriors are an opening night staple, either by virtue of being the defending champions or because of the huge popularity of Stephen Curry and his teammates. It will be fascinating to see how the ego-driven future Hall of Famer Paul fits into that locker room considering he may have to come off the bench for the first time in his career. Paul still has never won a ring. He remains an excellent player at age 38 but has a hard time staying healthy.
The Suns got rid of Paul in part because they wanted to land a bigger fish -- former Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal; Paul was part of that trade but then flipped by Washington to Golden State for Jordan Poole -- to form the league's latest superteam with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. It will mark not just Beal's debut, but the first time Durant faces the Warriors with fans in attendance at the Chase Center in San Francisco since 2019 – the year he left Golden State. The Suns and Nuggets split four regular-season games a year ago.
The full league schedule will be released next week. We already know when San Antonio's Victor Wembanyama, the most touted rookie to enter the league since LeBron and -150 favorite for Rookie of the Year, will debut. The Spurs reportedly host Dallas on Oct. 25. We also know the Christmas slate – highlighted by Celtics at Lakers.
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