Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 7/27/12
Mark your calendars Rip City

Portland Trail Blazers fans can officially start planning their 2012-13 NBA season.

The NBA schedule was released Thursday and the Blazers have a number of marquee matchups that should help set the tone and evaluate where the team truly is at certain points next year.

With so many new faces on the team’s current roster, anticipation is high, and the season can’t come any sooner for true Blazermaniacs.

Here is a look at the top five games on the Trail Blazers’ schedule next season:

October 31 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

The storylines surrounding the opening-night Halloween game are fantastic.

An up-and-coming squad versus a team of veterans, the rookie point guard versus the future Hall of Famer—who many fans wanted in Rip City—and of course the fact that Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers have historically had trouble winning in Portland.

The first game of the season is going to be a big test for the Trail Blazers, and it’s going to be a quick reality check for the young players on the roster.

The Beat L.A. paraphernalia will be out in full swing heading into this game, but if Dwight Howard somehow lands in Los Angeles before the start of the year, fans just might lose it with anticipation leading up to the new season.

November 8 vs. Los Angeles Clippers

The Nov. 8 game versus the Los Angeles Clippers will be the first time that national audience gets a look at Damian Lillard, the sixth overall pick in the NBA draft.

Damian Lillard will be facing off against arguably the league’s best floor general in Chris Paul, and the team will be taking on the former organization that general manager Neil Olshey spurned to join the Trail Blazers.

The Blazers open the season with a brutal stretch of playoff-caliber opponents, which should ultimately influence fans’ expectations one way or the other.

November 23 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Circle Nov. 23 on your calendar; Brandon Roy is coming home.

Circle Nov. 23 on your calendar; Brandon Roy is coming home.

Of course, Brandon Roy will be returning to the Rose Garden as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, but the three-time All-Star will be more than welcome as he makes his return to the place where he began his career.

Roy will undoubtedly receive a standing ovation and be showered with love the first time his name is called as an opponent.

That being said, it’s going to be one of the more emotionally conflicting performances in Rip City all season, especially if he torches his former team the way he used to do to so many others.

Saying goodbye to the face of the franchise is going to be tough, but having retired so abruptly last offseason, this will be the first real time fans may feel any closure, as they officially sever ties with their one-time face of the franchise.

February 19 vs. Phoenix Suns

In the first contest following the 2013 NBA All-Star game, the Trail Blazers will take on another rebuilding Western Conference opponent in the Phoenix Suns.

This game won’t grab as many eyeballs as the nationally televised game against the Miami Heat—or any of the other games on this list—but this could prove to be a matchup of two teams fighting for the same playoff spot come April.

Expect some growing pains from this young team next year, but expect the head coach—whoever he may be—to rally the troops and get his guys focused as they make a run at the postseason.

April 12 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Portland Trail Blazers have another difficult stretch as they close out the 2012-13 season, and the Oklahoma City Thunder are one team who could prevent them from making the playoff push they’re hoping to make.

As a division rival, any game against the Thunder is crucial, but don’t expect the Blazers to be competing for a spot atop the West next season.

However, a big-time win against a top-notch team could be the momentum the Blazers need if they’re going to make any noise in the playoffs.

At this point in the year, Lillard will have nearly his entire rookie campaign under his belt, and seeing how he plays against one of his biggest comparisons—Russell Westbrook—will be a good way of evaluating how far he’s come since day one.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSPORTSBEAT!

© Bryant Knox for North West Sports Beat, 2012. | Permalink | No comment |

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Post tags: 2012-13 nba season, 2012/2013 NBA season, Brandon Roy, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Kobe Bryant, NBA, NBA Games, NBA Schedule, Northwest Division, Portland home games, Portland Trail Blazers, Portland Trail Blazers Blog, Portland Trail Blazers blogs, Rose Garden, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash, Trail Blazers 2012 Schedule
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