After one of the busiest offseasons in league history, the NBA has released full team schedules for the upcoming season.
The Celtics — who were no exception to the madness that was this offseason — added a second star in Gordon Hayward, traded their longest tenured and one of the most respected players in the league Avery Bradley to Detroit, let Kelly Olynyk walk, added another top three pick in Jayson Tatum, brought over their draft and stash picks from last year Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele, and they acquired their own Morris twin from Detroit.
Despite all the chaos when the dust settles the Celtics are still a prime contender to be the Eastern Conference’s first seed. If things continue to melt down in Cleveland the door to the finals may even be open for Boston this year.
Every regular season game will be important for the C’s — but for fans that want to pencil in a few must-see games — here are 10 that we will surely want to be tuning into this year:
1. Season Opener: Tuesday October 17, 8:oo PM at Cleveland (TNT)
The Celtics are playing in the opener for the entire league in this matchup. The game will be broadcasted nationally on TNT and it has not yet been announced if the local channel of CSNNE will show the game. The intrigue in this matchup lies in the battle for supremacy. Lebron is aging (maybe), Kyrie wants to be anywhere else, and the Celtics are better than last year. This game is the chance for the Celtics to avenge last season’s drubbing in the conference finals and show the Cavs they are a new team. I suspect Kyrie will still be a Cav opening night, but that could change by February. The Celtics can show Cleveland right away that they are here and they are hungry for a trip to the finals and no longer want to play little brother to their rivals in Cleveland.
2. Home Opener: Wednesday October 18, 7:30 PM vs. Milwaukee (CSNNE)
What is the Celtics reward for getting to see the Cavaliers in the entire NBA league opener? A back to back the next night with Milwaukee. The NBA has done a terrific job cutting down on back to backs and 4 games in 5 nights, but it is still tough to see the Celtics open the season on a back to back.
Per NBA: Since 2014-15 season, four-in-fives for the entire NBA have been cut from 70 to zero:
— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) August 14, 2017
This will be the first chance for Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, and so many other Celtics youngsters to get their first taste of a real game in the Garden. Milwaukee, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, should be a top No. 4 or 5 seed in the East this coming year. The Celtics will have their hands full.
3. Lonzo mania comes to Boston: Wednesday November 8, 8:00 PM vs. Lakers (ESPN, CSNNE)
For a while it appeared the Celtics and Lakers rivalry was going to be re-ignited through the Ball vs Fultz rivalry. That is not possible anymore but still the rivalry will always be there. The Celtics are better than the Lakers, a lot better, but everywhere Lonzo goes headlines follow. It is no secret that his father did not want Lonzo to be a Celtic and Ball himself would not workout with the team. Fair or not, Celtics players and fans alike want to get Lonzo on the court and see how he can really play. Maybe Ball is the one who sparks the rivalry up again, it just won’t be a competitive rivalry this year.
4. Warriors pay their visit: Thursday November 16, 8:OO PM vs. Golden State (TNT, CSNNE)
The Warriors remain the undisputed best, most dominant team in the NBA and one of the greatest teams in league history despite having only played a season together. They are the title favorites now and for the foreseeable future. Still, if there is one team who always plays them tight it is the Celtics. The Celtics re-vamped roster should only better serve them against Golden State as they will have a ton of length and defensive versatility to throw at the Dubs scorers. Two of the last three years the Golden State trips to Boston have been instant classics. Last season gets a pass for being a blowout because the Celtics were missing Jae Crowder and Al Horford. However, the year before that saw the Celtics take the undefeated (at the time) Warriors to double overtime in an instant classic. While the year before that in 2015 the Warriors pulled off a miraculous comeback. With both teams being top contenders in the league this years game should be another classic.
5. Avery Bradley returns: Monday November 27, 7:30 PM vs. Detroit (CSNNE)
This should be an emotional one. Avery Bradley will certainly see a video tribute from the Celtics and a number of standing ovations from the crowd. Bradley gave his all to the Celtics in his seven seasons here and garnered so much respect around the league for his on ball defense and tenacity. Seeing AB in the Pistons uniform will undoubtedly be strange but it will be a nice return home for one night. Another small subplot of this game will be Marcus Morris getting a chance to face his old team, however that will certainly take a backseat to AB’s homecoming.
6. The Process invades Boston: Thursday November 30, 7:30 PM vs. Philadelphia (CSNNE, NBATV)
Like it or not the Celtics will forever be linked to Markelle Fultz career. Fultz is considered one of the best draft prospects in a long time, yet the Celtics made it clear that they viewed Jayson Tatum as a better player and would have spent their number one overall pick on him. Fultz combined with fellow youngsters Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Dario Saric means Philly could be a good team this year. If veterans J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson (welcome back to Boston Amir) can stabilize the young guns and everyone stays healthy Philly could snag a low playoff seed. Fultz will come out gunning and if he has a big game it may cause Celtics fans to consider what could have been.
7. Christmas Day Rivalry: Monday December 25, 5:30 PM vs. Washington (ABC)
The Celtics will play on Christmas for the second consecutive season only this time it will be a home again and it will be against their bitter rivals the Wizards. There is so much to watch for in this game: who wins the Wall vs IT matchup, who handles Bradley Beal with AB gone, can the Celtics replace the production they got from Olynyk vs the Wiz in the playoffs, Oubre chants from the crowd, and the matchup of the Morris twins. This is one of the best rivalries in the NBA today and we will see who goes home happy on the Holiday this year.
8. The Jimmy Butler saga: Friday January 5, 7:30PM vs. Minnesota (CSNNE)
It feels like Jimmy Butler will always be linked to the Celtics in someway. On draft night this year it really sounded like the Celtics were finally going to swing for the fences and acquire him and then suddenly he was off to Minnesota for pennies on the dollar (nice going Chicago front office). Still, Butler has two years left on his deal and will more likely than not re-up in Minnesota for a max deal. Yet I wouldn’t be surprised if more rumors about him coming to Boston happen in the future. Butler is a star and seeing him in the Garden with a talented young team will be fun, but he may just not be destined to ever wear the Green in his NBA career.
9. Winning streak goes on the line: Saturday January 27, 8:30 PM at Golden State (ABC Saturday Special)
The Warriors are nearly unbeatable at home in Oracle arena, unless they are playing the Celtics. In 2016 the Celtics went in and ended a historic 54-game home winning streak in a thrilling victory. Then this past season they went in and sucked the air out of the building with a strong double digit win. The Warriors don’t sweat the regular season much but I bet they circled this game on their calendar. Hopefully both sides are healthy for the matchup and we will see if the Celtics can keep their momentum in Oracle arena going.
10. Gordon Hayward returns to Utah: Wednesday March 28, 9:30 PM at Utah (ESPN, CSNNE)
Expect to hear the boo birds come out in this one. Utah fans were not pleased (rightfully so) when Hayward announced his intention to come and play in Boston. Their should be some bad blood in this game and maybe even a hard foul or two handed down from Rudy Gobert onto Hayward. It remains to be seen how Utah will fare in a brutal Western Conference without their leading scorer from last season. For this night however all the attention will be on Hayward.
This is a big season for Boston. Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart are due for contract extensions at the end of the year and the team has a real opportunity to find themselves back in Eastern Conference Finals and potentially a trip to the NBA Finals.
Expectations are high and that season opener can not come soon enough. After an offseason filled with crucial decisions we finally get to see how things play out on the court.