The Knicks on Christmas at MSG is a given. But against the Wizards? Didn't see that one coming. The Wizards are climbing and could be headed for a breakout season, assuming John Wall and Bradley Beal continue their progression. Putting them under the spotlight against the Knicks could be a perfect showcase.
The Thunder and Spurs don't really have a rivalry; it's more of a developing respect for each other. The Spurs took incredible satisfaction out of eliminating the hotshot Thunder last postseason, but there was always the qualifier of Serge Serge Ibaka's health hanging over that. The first meeting since the Game 6 overtime win that sent San Antonio to the NBA Finals is sure to be testy.
How will Heat fans treat LeBron in his return to Miami? Will they cheer as a thank you for two championships and four straight trips to the Finals? Will they boo? LeBron won't receive the same level of fury he got in his first visit to Cleveland in 2010, but it will be really interesting to see how he competes against Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Two mega-markets make sense for a Christmas showdown. Other than that, the big hook here is Pau Gasol playing his old team. Knowing him, he'll probably have handwritten thank you notes to pass out to all of his former teammates at tipoff.
A Christmas Day nightcap of two teams that do not enjoy each other's company.
With all the building speculation there is about Durant returning home in 2016, there's a good chance that he'll hear louder cheers from Wizards fans than Wall and Beal combined.
It's not that there's going to be a lot of hype around Chandler Parsons' return to Houston. It's more about how he'll play against his former team after the contention surrounding his departure. Harden and Howard both had something to say about it, and while the three apparently have patched things up, we'll see how that actually looks on the court.
Gasol returns to Staples Center, where he's sure to receive a warm reception. But I'm a little skeptical he'll actually play, because Kobe might tell him he's not invited to the game. We'll just have to wait and see.
Wolves fans already have illustrated how vicious they can be, so when Kevin Love makes his return to Minneapolis, he can expect waves of relentless heckling, like, "Your beard is just decent!" and "Defensively, you could stand to be a bit better!"
One actual thing that will be fun, though: Watching Andrew Wiggins guard LeBron.
The NBA will try to steal a bit of the eight-hour pregame window on Super Bowl Sunday with a couple games in the afternoon. The Heat visit the Celtics and the Lakers head to Madison Square Garden. Not a blockbuster slate of games, but it does feature Kobe Bryant at MSG, which is better than watching a second breakdown of the AFC team's long snapper.