The NBA released its full schedule for the 2019-20 season on Monday afternoon. Looking ahead toward the 82-game marathon, Knicks fans are hoping this year’s squad, with a pair of promising rookies and $70 million worth of free agents, will be far more competitive. Listed below are nine games New Yorkers should circle on their calendars.
* October 23rd: Knicks at Spurs – 8:30 pm EST
The Knickerbockers open the season in San Antonio, a notoriously tough place to play. The players have changed, but coach Gregg Popovich and company keep cranking out victories. In fact, in the 20 years since the Knicks and Spurs met in the 1999 NBA Finals, San Antonio has won more games than any team in the league, compiling a 1,135-489 record. Meanwhile, over that same stretch, New York has lost more games than any team in the NBA (672-952). But here’s to fresh starts, right… An interesting subplot to this opening night matchup is some bad blood between Marcus Morris and San Antonio. The Spurs were reportedly furious that Morris agreed to two-year, $20 million deal in July, which necessitated the team trading away sharpshooter Davis Bertans to Washington to clear the necessary cap space; only to see Mook Morris end up signing with New York. Coach Pop and the Spurs may look to exact some revenge.
* October 26th: Celtics at Knicks – 7:30 pm
The Knicks host the C’s in their 2019-20 home opener. Not only will New Yorkers get their first, up-close look at prized rookie RJ Barrett (will Barrett be introduced last during the starting lineup announcements?), but this game will also feature the return of Enes Kanter to MSG. The last time he was in the Garden, he knelt down to kiss the logo at center court. In addition, new Knicks forward Julius Randle and Kanter feuded a bit over social media this summer, which should add a little intensity to the evening’s festivities. The game will be shown nationally on NBA TV.
* November 8th: Knicks at Mavs – 8:30 pm
Six days before the much-anticipated return of Kristaps Porzingis to MSG, KP’s first matchup with his former squad will take place in Dallas. This game will also be Dennis Smith Jr.’s first opportunity to take on his former club (as well as Tim Hardaway’s first game vs. New York.) As I wrote last week, this is an incredibly important season for DSJ.
* November 14th: Mavs at Knicks – 7:30 pm
While the trade was undoubtedly justifiable, make no mistake, it will be difficult for Knicks fans to watch Porzingis glide up and down the floor in a Mavs uniform, dunking, knocking down 3-pointers and blocking shots. The Unicorn became a beloved cult figure in New York almost immediately. He was the toast of the town in the fall of 2017, when he averaged 30 points per game over the Knicks’ first ten contests. Yet, he left in shocking fashion after reportedly vowing that he wouldn’t sign an extension with the Knicks and threatening to return to Europe if NY didn’t trade him. By opening night, it will have been 21 months since he tore his ACL at MSG in February of 2018. The crowd at the Garden will be extremely fired up when they get a glimpse of their old flame in a different uniform. Do NOT expect a warm welcome. This game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
* November 24th: Nets at Knicks – 6:00 pm
New Jersey native Kyrie Irving decided to return to the tri-state area this offseason, but chose the Nets instead of the Knicks. It’s safe to assume MSG denizens will boo Kyrie loudly and frequently during his first visit to the Garden as a Brooklynite. Will Kevin Durant be on the bench in street clothes? The Knicks also take on the Nets in the second game of the year at Barclays and play in BK the day after Christmas as well.
* January 1st: Blazers at Knicks – 7:30 pm
New York will play on New Year’s Day for the 26th time in franchise history and the first at home since 2013. Nurse your hangover while watching the Knicks take on Dame Lillard, CJ McCollum, Mario Hezonja and the rest of the Blazers.
* January 10th: Pelicans at Knicks – 8:00 pm
From a fan’s perspective, so much of last season became about tanking in the hopes of winning the “Zion Williamson sweepstakes.” Yet, despite finishing with the NBA’s worst record, the Knicks wound up with the third overall selection and ended up drafting Williamson’s teammate, RJ Barrett. Zion only played nine minutes of Summer League action in Vegas, but in that limited time, he provided a few highlight-reel dunks and snatched the ball from Kevin Knox. This will be New Yorkers’ first look at what could have been. The game will be nationally televised on TNT. The Knicks and Pels will play each other again on March 27th in New Orleans.
* January 20th: Cavs at Knicks – 5:00 pm
This will be the 21st consecutive season the Knicks play on the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The five o’clock start is a bit odd, as they usually play earlier in the afternoon.
* January 22nd: Lakers at Knicks – 7:30 pm
LeBron’s pilgrimages to The Mecca are always highly-anticipated events. This year certainly won’t be any different. Now that he’s in the Western Conference, LeBron will only visit NYC once each season, and this time he’s bringing Anthony Davis with him, a player whom the Knicks were linked to in trade discussions at various points over the last six months.