The NBA on Monday unveiled the entire 2019-20 regular-season schedule. Here are the nine Celtics games you do not want to miss. For the sake of variety, opponents were not listed more than once.
1. Nov. 27 vs. Nets
Not even a year has passed since All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving stood on the TD Garden’s parquet floor and announced to a group of season ticket-holders that he intended to re-sign with the Celtics at season’s end. There’s no point going into great detail about what happened next, but if you missed it, just know that it ended badly, and that Irving plays for the Brooklyn Nets now.
In Boston, he probably will become the most reviled former Celtics All-Star, and this will be his first game back. Yes, during his two years with the Celtics, Irving often sat out against his former team, the Cavaliers. But Cleveland was terrible and Boston is not, and the Nets want to win, so look for Irving to suit up when he returns.
Kevin Durant could miss the entire season as he recovers from the ruptured Achilles’ tendon he suffered last June, but based on precedent, it’s possible he could return after the All-Star break.
Other matchups with Brooklyn: Nov. 29 at Nets, March 3 vs. Nets, March 21 at Nets.
2. Oct. 23 at 76ers
When it became clear in June that former All-Star Al Horford had decided to sign elsewhere, Celtics fans mostly just hoped that he would not end up in Philadelphia. Well, he did, and perhaps the conference’s best current rivalry received another jolt.
This game gets the nod because it is the season opener for both teams, but the first game in Boston will be juicy, too, as Horford makes his return. Oh, the 76ers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, too.
Other matchups: Dec. 12 vs. 76ers, Jan. 9 at 76ers, Feb. 1 vs. 76ers.
3. Jan. 20 vs. Lakers
Los Angeles delivered this rivalry’s latest gut punch when it acquired Anthony Davis from the Pelicans, thus dashing the Celtics’ hopes of winning the Davis sweepstakes. And make no mistake, even though the Celtics were reluctant to open their treasure chest of assets all the way to get Davis, they wanted him.
Now, Davis and LeBron James will form perhaps the league’s top duo, bringing some new sizzle to this matchup that is intriguing even when both teams are bad. Also, former Celtics teammates Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley are reunited on the Lakers now.
Other matchup: Feb. 23 at Lakers
4. Oct. 30 vs. Bucks
Few expected the Bucks to vault past the Celtics in the Eastern Conference hierarchy this quickly. But here we are.
Last season, there was a sense that LeBron’s departure from Cleveland had opened the door for the Celtics to surge to the Finals. That didn’t happen, of course, but now there is a similar feeling in Milwaukee after Kawhi Leonard left Toronto, potentially putting reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in position for his first Finals appearance.
Milwaukee won 60 games last year and flicked away the Celtics in five games in the conference semifinals.
Other matchups: at Bucks Jan. 16, at Bucks March 12, vs. Bucks April 5.
5. Feb. 13 vs. Clippers
The Celtics surely breathed a sigh of relief when Leonard opted to leave the world-champion Raptors and sign with the Clippers. But that will make these two matchups more challenging. Leonard and Paul George turned a talented roster into a championship-caliber one, much to the delight of former Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
Other matchup: Nov. 20 at Clippers.
6. Dec. 25 at Raptors
The Raptors are the defending NBA champions, so that’s pretty cool. But this matchup lost most of its sizzle with the departures of Leonard and Irving. These are still playoff teams, however, and this game is being played on Christmas, the marquee date on the regular-season schedule.
Other matchups: Oct. 25 vs. Toronto, Dec. 28 vs. Toronto, March 20 at Toronto.
7. Feb. 29 vs. Rockets
James Harden and Russell Westbrook, together again. Enough said.
Other matchup: Feb. 11 at Houston.
8. Nov. 7 at Hornets
Often, a player’s first game against his former team is alluring because of the expected vitriol that it will generate (see: Irving, Kyrie). Kemba Walker’s return to Charlotte, where he spent the first eight years of his career, feels different.
Walker made the All-Star team in each of the last three seasons, but he did not lead his team to the playoffs in any of them. Also, he made it clear that he hoped to return to Charlotte, but the Hornets simply did not offer him the contract he was seeking, so the fans there figure to be more understanding.
When these teams play in Boston, it will mark Terry Rozier’s official, if less-heralded, return.
Other matchups: Dec. 22 vs. Hornets, Dec. 31 at Hornets.
9. Jan. 11 vs. Pelicans
This will be Boston’s first look at rookie forward Zion Williamson, the most intriguing NBA prospect since James. This also will give the Celtics a chance to take out their frustrations on the Pelicans for trading Davis to the Lakers.
Other matchup: Jan. 26 at New Orleans.