OPENING NIGHT – WARRIORS
• Wednesday, Oct. 29, 7 p.m.
Opening night is always one of the best nights of the season for Kings fans, no matter the opponent. It’s been a long time since anyone mentioned the “Mayor’s Cup,” but the Kings and Warriors are still I-80 rivals, even though the Warriors have had much more recent success. Led by guards Stephen Curry (above) – who said this week he thinks he’s a better offensive player than LeBron James – and Klay Thompson, the Warriors won all four games between the teams last season.
HERE COMES THE KING – CLEVELAND
• Sunday, Jan. 11, 6 p.m.
This will be the toughest ticket of the season, and not just because LeBron James (above) went home to Cleveland after four seasons in Miami. The acquisition of power forward Kevin Love might be just as important for the Cavaliers, who would feature perhaps the best “Big Three” in the league in James, Love and point guard Kyrie Irving. James said his goal is to win a championship for his hometown, and it could happen next summer.
STILL LOVING THEM – LAKERS
• Sunday, Dec. 21, 3 p.m.
• Monday, April 13, 7 p.m.
They’re not even the best team in Los Angeles now, but they’re the Lakers and they still have Kobe Bryant (above). So there’s no question Sleep Train Arena will be sold out and awash in purple and gold, as it is every time the Lakers come to town. The Lakers have lost Pau Gasol to the Chicago Bulls, but they’ve added promising rookie Julius Randle and fan favorite Jeremy Lin. Will new coach Byron Scott make them a .500 team?
HOOPS 101 – SAN ANTONIO
• Saturday, Nov. 15, 7 p.m.
• Friday, Feb. 27, 7 p.m.
The Spurs put on a basketball clinic in their whipping of the Miami Heat in five games in the NBA Finals, and all the key players – Tim Duncan (above), Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili – are back. The matchup to watch might be the Kings’ Rudy Gay against Kawhi Leonard, the 23-year-old small forward who was the MVP of the Finals.
I.T. SEEKS REVENGE – PHOENIX
• Friday, Dec. 26, 7 p.m.
• Sunday, Feb. 8, 6 p.m.
Most seasons, the Suns wouldn’t make this list, but that was before they signed Isaiah Thomas (above), who won’t be delivering pizzas on his return to Sleep Train. The little guard with the big chip on his shoulder will be out to prove the Kings made a mistake by not matching the Suns’ offer. Thomas, always brash and not one to shy from pressure, averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists for the Kings last season. Can new point guard Darren Collison contain him?