CLEVELAND CAVALIERS AT NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Saturday, Oct. 28 (6 p.m.)
Why it’s on the list
No matter what team LeBron James plays for, it’s a guaranteed sellout in the Smoothie King Center, with the future Hall of Famer ensuring a packed house as one of the NBA’s premier attractions. The Cavaliers will have a bit of a new look this season as they try to capture a fourth consecutive Eastern Conference championship, but Cleveland also returns several familiar faces. Included among the Cavs players who’ve been part of the franchise’s entire recent run of excellence are Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith. Love and Thompson will have their hands full in the frontcourt while facing the Pelicans’ All-Star big-man duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins; it will be Cousins’ first game vs. Cleveland in a New Orleans uniform.
Where it falls on the New Orleans schedule
Crescent City basketball fans won’t have to wait long to see two of the NBA’s most star-studded teams play, with the Pelicans hosting Golden State (Oct. 20) and Cleveland in their first two home games. The pair of challenging home tilts are part of a rough early-season stretch for New Orleans, which plays eight of its first 12 games overall away from Louisiana. Preparation for the Cleveland game Oct. 28 will be a bit condensed, because the Pelicans will play Oct. 26 at Sacramento in a late TNT game, then land at the local Kenner airport in the wee hours of the morning Oct. 27.
What’s new in Cleveland
After weeks of rumors and discussion, last week the Cavaliers agreed to a trade with Boston that sent All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to the Celtics, in exchange for All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, rookie center Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round pick (via Brooklyn). Although ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the trade isn’t officially finalized due to concerns over Thomas’ hip injury, if the deal remains as is, Cleveland has improved its depth and versatility. Thomas is a relatively comparable player to Irving in terms of overall scoring ability – he finished third in the NBA at 28.9 points per game, while Irving was 11th – and Crowder is a valuable defender and three-point shooter (39.8 percent in 2016-17). Unless Brooklyn improves greatly upon its 21-61 and 20-62 records over the past two seasons, Cleveland will also benefit from a top lottery pick next June.
Other 2017-18 games between these two teams
Friday, March 30, New Orleans at Cleveland (ESPN)