Assuming the 2011-12 NBA season starts on time (unlikely at this point), it will open with a bang as last year's best regular-season team visits the defending champions. There will be no shortage of star power as reigning MVP Derrick Rose faces off against Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki.
2 of 19Brett Davis/US Presswire
Rockets at Jazz
To follow the duel in Dallas, Kevin McHale will make his Rockets coaching debut against a rebuilding Jazz team -- and he'll do it without Yao Ming.
3 of 19Larry W. Smith/EPA/Landov
Thunder at Lakers
To cap the opening-night festivities, the Lakers and new coach Mike Brown host Kevin Durant and the Thunder. L.A. was swept by the Mavericks in the second round last season, while Oklahoma City improved over its previous postseason performance with a trip the conference finals.
4 of 19Jason Miller/US Presswire
Cavaliers at Celtics
Kyrie Irving, the first overall pick in this year's draft, will face a tough matchup in his pro debut: Rajon Rondo and the Celtics. The Cavs' young point guard will likely get a rude awakening against one of the league's best defenses.
5 of 19Ben Margot/AP
Lakers at Warriors
Rookie coach Mark Jackson will begin his career in Golden State against in-state foes. Let's hope Jackson has already made some improvements to the Warriors' defense.
6 of 19Larry W. Smith/EPA/Landov
Mavericks at Spurs
This Texas showdown features the tough Spurs (save for their first-round sweep to the Grizzlies last season) and the newly crowned Mavs. It will be interesting to see how Dallas handles being the hunted rather than the hunter.
7 of 19Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post/ZUMAPRESS.com
Celtics at Heat
There is no love lost between these two teams and their games usually play out as such. The Celtics won three of their four meetings in the regular season last year, but Miami got revenge in the postseason, with a 4-2 conference semifinals win.
8 of 19Bill Frakes/SI; Jack Dempsey/AP
Knicks at Nuggets
After his sixth-month "Melo-drama" that landed in him New York, Carmelo Anthony will return to face his former team in Denver. That the Nuggets ended up better than the Knicks after trading their star player only adds to the excitement.
9 of 19David Richard/AP
Heat at Cavaliers
And two days after Carmelo faces his former team, LeBron will face his. The Miami superstar heads back to the city he scorned for what's sure to be another hate-fest. Regardless of whether the people of Cleveland "should get over it," they haven't, and the fans will be emotionally charged leading up to this game.
10 of 19Greg Nelson/SI
Heat at Mavericks
The NBA owns Christmas Day, and it'll kick off its packed lineup with a rematch of one of the better Finals in recent memory. Dirk & Co. will try to take down Miami's Big Three once more in a game filled with storylines.
11 of 19Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Celtics at Knicks
With the additions of Stoudemire and Anthony last season, the Knicks are showing that they want to compete with the top dogs in the Eastern Conference. And there's no better place to prove themselves than in front of a Christmas audience against a battle-tested Celtics team.
12 of 19Brian Cassella/MCT/Landov
Bulls at Lakers
Arguably the league's two most talented teams face off in the third Christmas day matchup. The battle between Bryant and Rose will be worth the price of admission alone.
13 of 19David E. Klutho/SI
Spurs at Grizzlies
In one of the most shocking NBA upsets in league history, the eighth-seeded Grizzlies rolled over the top-seeded Spurs in the first round of last year's playoffs. Eight months year later, it will be interesting to see how the older Spurs approach their battle with Memphis' frontcourt.
14 of 19Gary W. Green/MCT/Landov
Bulls at Magic
A matchup between the two favorites in last year's MVP race is always great. Add in rumors about Dwight Howard leaving Orlando (possibly in a trade with Chicago) and you have must-see NBA TV.
15 of 19Tony Dejak, Jim Mone/AP
Timberwolves at Cavaliers
While both of these teams should struggle next year, the matchup between two new, high-profile point guards will be telling. Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio are either the future of the league, or overhyped small guards, depending on who you listen to.
16 of 19Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Lakers at Celtics
The greatest rivalry in basketball should be just as intense in 2012. With veteran rosters, both teams will be desperate to get back to the playoffs for another title run.
17 of 19Mary Altaffer/AP
Hornets at Knicks
This game will surely be hyped in the New York tabloids, as it's the only time the Hornets' Chris Paul, a 2012 free agent, visits the Garden during the season. Regardless of salary constraints that may stop Paul from eventually playing in New York, Knick fans see him as their team's missing piece.
18 of 19Jim O'Connor/US Presswire
Magic at Nets
Like Paul, Magic center Dwight Howard could also be on the move as a free agent in 2012. With a solid core already and a star point guard in Deron Williams, the Nets are serious contenders to land the gregarious center if he decides to leave.
19 of 19Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
Heat at Bulls
After last year's Eastern Conference finals, the Bulls-Heat matchup has quickly accelerated into one of the NBA's top rivalries. Both teams are well-coached, talented and -- best of all -- can't stand each other.
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