While it's difficult to get too excited about the schedule being released, knowing that the teams won't have any players until the D-League's Draft is conducted in late October, the rosters in the Development League are fluid year-round so there's no time like the present to present the 10 games I anticipate most -- in chronological order -- of this year's D-League regular season.
Friday, November 19
Saturday, November 20
New Mexico Thunderbirds @ Idaho Stampede -- This matchup probably wouldn't have been attractive last season as both teams missed the playoffs after starting strong, but the coaching matchup alone is enough to make me intrigued to watch this year. With Randy Livingston being named the head coach of the Stampede and Darvin Ham being named the head coach of the Thunderbirds, this will be the first matchup in league history to pit former D-League players against each other on the sidelines. Both players retired from the D-League following the 2007-2008 D-League season.
Sunday, November 21
Sunday, December 5
Rio Grande Valley Vipers @ Tulsa 66ers -- Two of the top coaches in the D-League last season will roam the sidelines in this game as reigning Coach of the Year Chris Finch leads the Vipers and Nate Tibbetts mans the bench for the 66ers. If the coaching matchup isn't enough to intrigue you, though, these teams are also single-affiliated with NBA teams: Rio Grande Valley is engaged in the unique hybrid partnership with the Houston Rockets while the Oklahoma City Thunder own the Tulsa 66ers. And, if that's not enough to keep everyone interested, this is also the first matchup of the season that pits last year's D-League championship finalists against each other.
Saturday, December 25
Dakota Wizards @ Sioux Falls Skyforce -- This matchup is always entertaining -- probably because it's the longest running rivalry in the D-League -- but the fact that it marks Dakota's first (of just two) trips to Sioux Falls and comes on Christmas Day definitely adds to the allure. The Skyforce always draw well for this annual game and if they're going to win the six-game series this year, the crowd will probably have to play a factor to give them the home court advantage -- especially since four of the six games will be played in Bismarck.
Tuesday, January 4
Springfield Armor @ New Mexico Thunderbirds -- This game would have been pretty ugly last season as the two teams finished just 25-75 combined, but the reason I decided to highlight this game is because the players will have something to prove. Ten-day contracts begin the following day, meaning a big game on Tuesday could do wonders for the player's chances at an NBA call-up.
Monday, January 10
Thursday, January 13
Austin Toros @ Bakersfield Jam -- This matchup is probably the hardest to venture a guess at for next season, but the reason I'm highlighting this game is because it signals the end of the D-League Showcase. With the Showcase being the most widely-scouted D-League event, there will have more than likely been at least one NBA call-up between this game and Monday's Skyforce-66ers affair. As far as the actual matchup on the court, Austin will be without the services of head coach Quin Snyder, who took a position as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers, and instead be led by an as-of-yet unnamed head coach. As for Bakersfield, it will be interesting to see if their record at this point resembles last year's miserable start or if the Jam are able to return their top players and begin this season how last season ended.
Wednesday, February 2
Saturday, April 2