When LeBron James switched locales last month, he transferred a batch of his league-wide rivalries back to Cleveland.
And that includes the NBA’s most appealing individual showdown: King James against Kevin Durant in a battle of the league’s premier players.
It’s a must-see duel that has exploded during the past few seasons – with Durant ascending to stardom and the duo meeting in the 2012 Finals – and it will be renewed on Dec. 11, when James’ new-look Cavaliers visit Oklahoma City in one of the highlight games of the NBA’s recently released 2014-15 schedule.
The Thunder makes its return trip to Cleveland on Jan. 25.
But LeBron and the Cavaliers only project as a likely rival. OKC already has plenty of established ones, all residing in the Western Conference. And it won’t take long to renew a couple of them.
The Thunder opens the season on Oct. 29 in Portland, facing a Blazers team that Durant admitted he “didn’t like” after a game last year. Then OKC travels to Los Angeles to face the Clippers the next night in a rematch of a dramatic and hotly contested second-round series from last May.
OKC’s home opener is two nights later, on Nov. 1 against Denver, in the Thunder’s only Saturday home game of the season (compared to 11 on Sunday, as the organization prefers).
Later that month, on Nov. 16, the Rockets come to Oklahoma City. It’ll be Houston’s first visit since that infamous meeting last March, which included a pair of Russell Westbrook-Patrick Beverley altercations, some James Harden taunting and a constant chorus of boos directed at the Rockets from the OKC home crowd. After that, the Thunder and Rockets are scheduled to meet two more times, on Jan. 15 in Houston and April 5 in OKC.
But the premier game on the Thunder’s schedule may come on the NBA’s showcase day. For the fifth straight season, OKC is slated to play on Christmas, this time against the defending champion Spurs in San Antonio. It’ll be the first meeting between the two since the Spurs eliminated OKC in Game 6 of the Conference Finals.
The two elite franchises will meet twice more – on March 25 in San Antonio and April 7 in OKC – in a pair of late-season games that could carry some important seeding implications at the top of the Western Conference.