In four of the past five seasons, the Cleveland Cavaliers have opened the season on the road; in 2018-2019 at the Toronto Raptors when Kawhi Leonard made his Raptors debut, in 2019-20 at the Orlando Magic, in 2021-22 at the Memphis Grizzlies, and in 2022-23 at Toronto. When the Cavs had their four-year rivalry with the Golden State Warriors, the two teams played on Christmas three times, including the thrilling game in Cleveland during the 2016-17 season where the Cavs beat the Warriors 109-108.
This upcoming season, the Cavaliers should open the 2023-24 campaign at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse (RMFH) in downtown Cleveland and they should play on Christmas because they’re a team on the rise and they have rivalries the NBA should showcase.
The Cavs should open the 2023-24 season at home, and they should play on Christmas.
Playing inside RMFH usually translated into wins for the Cavaliers last season as they went 31-10 at home. In a key three-game homestand against the LA Clippers, Miami Heat, and Grizzlies, Cleveland went 2-1. The Cavs also went a combined 4-0 against both the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics inside the FieldHouse.
Despite being eliminated by the New York Knicks in the first round, a series in which they lost two of three at home, the Cavs are once again projected to be a top contender in the Eastern Conference this season. The Cavaliers’ management successfully surrounded Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell with shooters like Max Strus and Georges Niang, and the Cavs will look to sustain their success at home from last season.
Considering how good the Cavaliers were at home and the fact that they’ve begun the season on the road in back-to-back seasons, they should begin the 2023-24 season at home. The last time the Cavs opened the season in Cleveland was during the COVID-19 shortened 2020-21 season on Dec. 23 against the Charlotte Hornets, which led to a 121-114 victory for the Cavaliers.
The last time the Cavaliers properly opened a season at home was during the 2017-2018 season against the Celtics when Kyrie Irving made his highly anticipated return to what was then called Quicken Loans Arena, or “The Q.” The Cavaliers spoiled Kyrie’s return to Cleveland by defeating the Celtics 102-99.
Taking recent Cavaliers’ history into account, it feels like the time for the Cavaliers to open the season inside the friendly confines of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
There are a number of opponents that would make sense for the Cavs to face in the home opener, with the primary candidates being fellow Eastern conference contenders like the New York Knicks, Celtics, Bucks, Miami Heat, or Philadelphia 76ers. Knowing the NBA’s reputation for neglecting small-market teams until they become undeniable, the Cavs will probably start the season against someone like the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets, or the Houston Rockets.
Christmas is the NBA’s biggest regular season showcase. Some fans and pundits argue the season doesn’t really start until Dec. 25. The last time the Cavaliers played on Christmas was during the 2017-2018 season on the road against Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and the then-defending NBA champion Warriors. The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers 99-92, as Kevin Love was the leading scorer for the Cavs with 31 points, and Kevin Durant was the leading scorer for the Warriors with 25.
The Cavaliers have a young and exciting core of players in Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, and Evan Mobley and the NBA needs to showcase them on the pinnacle day of the regular season. The Cavs announced their presence to the national audience last season as they went 3-1 against the Celtics and 2-2 against the Bucks (the two premier teams in the Eastern Conference). On top of all that, Cleveland made the playoffs for the first time since 2018 when LeBron dragged them to the NBA Finals.
The Bucks didn’t get the high media attention and national spotlight until Giannis Antetokounmpo turned into the star player that he is today. Until the Cavaliers made the splash of trading for Mitchell, they were in the same boat as Milwaukee.
The Bucks seem to play on National TV all the time because they have Giannis and because they play a brand of basketball that is exciting for fans. Cleveland has its share of star power as well, and is a fascinating club to watch, which should warrant its share of the spotlight as well. If you take all of these factors and put them together, the NBA should put the Cavaliers on Christmas this coming season.
Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, New York, and Miami are going to receive the “Red Pen Treatment” this season. As such, they would be the most likely opponents for the Cavs if they were to play on Christmas this season. Since New York defeated Cleveland in Round 1 of the playoffs this past season, the NBA would be wise to match these two up on Christmas. The NBA has a tendency to do playoff rematches on Christmas because they know those matchups raise the level of intrigue.
If it were up to me, Kristaps Porziņģis, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and the Celtics would come to town to take on Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley, and the Cavaliers. All four games between the rivals were nail-biters, as three went into overtime, and three of them were decided by four points or less. This rivalry deserves to be shown on Christmas, preferably in Cleveland.
It’s been a while since the Cavaliers properly opened the season in downtown Cleveland and played on Christmas. This upcoming season, both of those things need to change.
The Cavs have rebuilt themselves in the next post-LeBron era, and the NBA would be wise to highlight one of their up-and-coming teams.