The 2013-14 Utah Jazz schedule was released on Tuesday, and fans can begin to plan for the upcoming season.
Between plenty of reunion games and matchups against some of the NBA's top competition, there are plenty of intriguing contests for the Jazz next year.
For a Utah team that is allowing its younger players to develop and become the faces of the franchise, there are difficult games ahead. They start with a season-opening matchup against Oklahoma City and run through a home finale contest against rival L.A. Lakers.
What are some of the top contests of the year? Here are 10 games to make sure to mark on your calendar:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @brandonljudd
The 2013-14 regular season kicks off for the Jazz with a home tilt against the Thunder. It is the second year in a row that Utah begins the regular season with a home game. That hasn't happened in back-to-back seasons for the team since Utah opened at home in four consecutive years, from 2003-06.
The last time Utah and Oklahoma City met in EnergySolutions Arena, the Thunder topped the Jazz 90-80 on April 10. The loss struck a big blow to Utah's playoff hopes, and while it's expected the Jazz will struggle this season with a youth movement, a win here could exact a little bit of revenge.
The Warriors and Jazz will match up two days before this game, in California, in Utah's first back-to-back games with an opponent this season. Golden State's Steph Curry is a must-see, and the addition of Andre Iguodala will make the Warriors a bigger player in the Western Conference race.
Plus, this will give new Jazzmen Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson the chance to take on their former teammates in Utah, after the Jazz and Warriors were a part of a three-team trade that helped Iguodala land with Golden State.
While there will be several homecomings for former Jazz players this season, this one has its own unique flavor. Once a longtime Utah sharpshooter and assistant coach, Jeff Hornacek will be coming back to the state, this time as the head coach of the Suns. Hornacek, in his first year as the coach, and Phoenix will then host the Jazz the next day.
The Jazz will play the Northwest Division foe Trail Blazers for the second time in four days, this time at home. Utah's other home contest against Portland will come near the end of the season, on April 11. Rookie of the Year and former Weber State guard Damian Lillard will return to the state he knows well. The last time he played in Utah, Lillard scored 17 points on April 2 in a 112-102 Jazz victory.
For seven seasons, Paul Millsap has called the Utah franchise his NBA home. Following an offseason where the Jazz didn't re-sign any of their free agents, including Millsap, this will be the first time the former Jazzman plays against his old team.
The storyline of Millsap matching up with Derrick Favors isn't the only Jazz connection here. DeMarre Carroll also signed with the Hawks during the offseason, joining another Jazz fan favorite, Kyle Korver, in Atlanta.
Just before the calendar heads into a new year, the Jazz will face another familiar face: Al Jefferson. During his three-year venture in Utah, Jefferson was a big-time scorer. Now he will be trying to do the same in Charlotte, and this game gives Jazz fans their first chance to see Jefferson back in EnergySolutions Arena since his departure.
This matchup, against the Western Conference champion Spurs, will be the first of three scheduled ESPN games for Utah. San Antonio, with aging veterans Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili combining with some younger talent, will yet again be a tough opponent in the upcoming season. This will be Utah's first game of the year at San Antonio after the Jazz and Spurs play a pair of games earlier in the season at EnergySolutions Arena.
The Heat, the two-time defending NBA champions, will make their lone trip to the Beehive State in early February, allowing Utah fans a first-hand look at LeBron James and Co. The Jazz will be hoping for a similar result to the last time Miami traveled to Utah, on Jan. 15. That day, Utah took a 19-point lead into the fourth quarter before weathering a James-led rally that came up short. Gordon Hayward scored 22 points in that game.
Utah will play two of its three games against the Clippers in Los Angeles, making this the lone opportunity for Jazz fans to watch Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and the rising L.A. team in person. Once an almost automatic victory for Utah whenever the Clippers came to town, the Jazz will need a big effort from their young team to win this one. Last year, Los Angeles swept the series with Utah, including a 116-114 game in Salt Lake City in which the Clippers won their 16th straight game.
The Jazz will finish off their home slate with a familiar opponent, the Lakers. Los Angeles will also play at EnergySolutions Arena on Dec. 27. If Kobe Bryant isn't able to make it back by the time the Lakers take their first trip to Utah in December, this would likely give fans their only opportunity to see Bryant this season.
The Jazz were victorious in their only home matchup with the Lakers last season.