The NBA announced its Opening Week national television schedule, tipping off the season with a star-studded double-header.
The defending champion Milwaukee Bucks host the Brooklyn Nets, followed by the Golden State Warriors' visit to STAPLES Center to take on the Los Angeles Lakers, with plenty of marquee matchups filling out the first week.
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As the NBA celebrates its 75th season, opening week showcases stars of the present and future. Here's what we learned from the first slate of games.
Trae and Luka got next
If the opening night matchups tell us anything, the combination of rivalries and superstar matchups reign supreme and while there's four veteran squads in action to start the season, the league also has one eye on the future.
The Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks square off on the third day of the season in a nationally televised blockbuster, pitching Luka Doncic against Trae Young. The two stars from the 2018 NBA Draft have been linked ever since the draft-day trade sent them in opposite directions, while both have blossomed into All-Stars in their first three seasons.
With Young leading the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals last season and Doncic taking the Mavs to the playoffs in the past two seasons, the 22-year-old pair have earmarked themselves as two of the faces of the league for years to come.
It won't be long till the Hawks vs. Mavs becomes one of the true marquee games of the season.
No Zion Williamson
In 2019-20, Zion Williamson's much-anticipated NBA debut headlined the opening night action against the then-defending champion Toronto Raptors and that same season the New Orleans Pelicans featured on Christmas Day against the Denver Nuggets. In 2020-21, the Pelicans played on Christmas Day again against the Miami Heat, but when you look at the schedule release for 2021-22, the Pelicans are nowhere to be found on either of the league's marquee days.
After missing the playoffs in each of the past two seasons and now onto their third coach in as many years, the Pelicans are yet to make the leap many expected with the arrival of Williamson, who was named as an All-Star in his second NBA season.
The off-season saw the departure of Lonzo Ball in free agency, one of the key pieces of the Anthony Davis trade and the arrival of new head coach Willie Green, setting the Pelicans up for another year of finding their identity. If Williamson takes another leap this season and puts the Pelicans in playoff contention, they will no doubt find their way back to being a marquee attraction.
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The Suns are must-see TV
In 2019-20, the Suns appeared on national television just once and the arrival of Chris Paul last season lifted that number to 17 games.
Following their run to the NBA Finals in 2020-21, the Suns will now feature on national television a franchise-record 34 times - the fifth-most in the NBA this season behind only the Bucks, Nets, Warriors and Lakers.
In the opening week alone, the Suns feature in two nationally televised games, opening the season at home against the Denver Nuggets in a rematch of their second-round playoff series, followed by a trip to STAPLES Center to take on the new-look Los Angeles Lakers.
*𝘙𝘦𝘮𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘰𝘧𝘧𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘦- Phoenix Suns (@Suns) August 20, 2021
34 nationally televised games. Franchise record. Go time! pic.twitter.com/lPXjL7QN5J
We'll also get to see the Suns play on Christmas Day for the first time since 2009, when they host the Golden State Warriors.
With Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton leading the charge, the Suns' free-flowing style of play and more importantly their status as a title contender have made them once again must-see TV.
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