Toronto Raptors

2021-22 NBA schedule: Must-watch return games in the NBA's 75th season

Top return games to watch in the 2020-21 season are headlined by Kyle Lowry's return to Toronto
(NBA Getty Images)

The release of the 2021-22 NBA schedule allows NBA fans to circle out all the key dates on the calendar.

The matchups on the league's marquee days such as Opening Week, Christmas Day and MLK Day usually steal the spotlight, and rightfully so but there are plenty of storylines from the offseason that make for other interesting dates to be marked as well.

This year's list of 'returns to watch' is slightly shorter given that the 2021 summer predominantly saw plenty of extensions or re-signings.

That said, here are the four return matchups to circle on the calendar and must watch:

Kyle Lowry returns to Toronto

Date: Thursday, Feb. 3, 7:30 p.m. ET

Given the emotions involved and its impact on both teams, this is probably the biggest return game of the year.

In a sign-and-trade, the Miami Heat acquired Kyle Lowry in exchange for Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa.

After nine great years, without mentioning his off-court impact, Lowry's spot on the franchise's all-time rankings more than validates calling him the greatest Raptor ever. He is the franchise's all-time leader in assists (4,277), steals (873), 3-pointers made (1,518) and triple-doubles (16).

MORE: Appreciating Lowry, the greatest Raptor ever

Soon, after the deal, Larry Tanenbaum - Raptors governor and chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment - already made the franchise's intention to retire Lowry's No. 7 clear.

The franchise's greatest seven-year run, including the championship run in 2019, has come while the point guard has been their floor general.

So, it would be safe to assume that there's going to be an incredible tribute video and plenty of emotions from Lowry, the Raptors, their fans worldwide and the crowd in Scotiabank Arena in the first of two meetings between the teams in Toronto.

Patty Mills back in San Antonio

Date: Friday, Jan. 21, 8:30 p.m. ET

The 2021 offseason also brought the curtains on an incredible career in San Antonio. After 10 seasons with the Spurs, Aussie point guard Patty Mills signed with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency.

Prior to his departure, he was the only remaining piece of the franchise's 2014 championship squad. On the Spurs' all-time rankings, Mills features prominently on categories like games played (665, 7th), 3-pointers made (1171, 2nd), free-throw percentage (.867, 1st).

The evolution of his role and impact on the team over the course of his time with the franchise is one for the storybooks. There's bound to be a tribute video in what would be an emotional night when the Spurs host the Nets. He does have a strong case, so maybe there could even be a jersey retirement in the future?

Ring nights for PJ Tucker and Bryn Forbes

Date: Tucker return - Saturday, Dec. 4, 8:00 p.m. ET, Forbes return - Saturday, Oct. 30, 8:00 p.m. ET

Opening night usually sees the champs get their rings. Having said that, more often not, there is at least one player who isn't with the team - either via a trade or free agency - and can't celebrate that night.

For the 2021 championship-winning Milwaukee Bucks, a couple of those players include PJ Tucker and Bryn Forbes, both of whom played key roles in their title run.

Tucker moved on to Miami to sign with the Heat while Forbes returned to San Antonio, where he spent the four years of his NBA career.

Andre Iguodala's 1st game back at Chase Center

Date: Thursday, Oct. 21, 10 p.m. ET

After playing 1.5 seasons in Miami, Andre Iguodala is all set to return to Bay. The 6-foo-9 forward reportedly agreed to sign with the Warriors on a one-year deal.

He hopes to finish his career with them, a franchise where he tasted the most success with 3 NBA Championship (2015, 2017, 2018) including being named the 2015 NBA Finals MVP.

While he could make his Warriors re-debut, if you want to call it that, on opening night when they visit the Los Angeles Lakers, there's bound to be more smiles and celebration for his first night in front of Dub Nation at the Chase Center in San Francisco.

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