LeBron James Making Lakers Debut October 18 in … Portland?

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, August 8, 2018 6:51 PM UTC

Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018 6:51 PM UTC

Let the LeBron James mania begin: The King will make his Los Angeles Lakers regular-season debut in a city not many would have guessed.

Back in early July right after LeBron James announced he was leaving Cleveland to sign as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers, this writer addressed an Intertops prop on which team James would make his Lakers debut against. The NBA always likes to make a major splash on Opening Night, so the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors were the +175 favorites, followed by the Spurs, Celtics, Rockets, Cavaliers, Raptors, Thunder and Clippers.

Turns out to be none of them.

James will don the Purple & Gold for the first time in a game that matters on Thursday, Oct. 18 in Portland in the second game of a TNT doubleheader. The Blazers were the Western Conference’s third seed last year with a 49-33 record but were shockingly swept out of the first round of the playoffs by New Orleans. Portland was rather quiet this offseason and essentially brings back the same team. BetOnline expects some regression as it gives Portland a win total of 42.5. The Lakers are at 49.5 after winning 35 a season ago. Is LeBron (and Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson) worth 14 victories?

James will play on Christmas yet again in the marquee matchup of the holiday as the Lakers visit the Warriors at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. Knowing the NBA and how much they like to hype Christmas, that will be the first meeting of the season between L.A. and Golden State. LeBron’s home opener is Oct. 20 against Houston and good buddies Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. The Lakers’ preseason opener is Sept. 30 vs. Denver in San Diego.

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The NBA Christmas schedule is set.

Look who's coming to town 🎅 pic.twitter.com/mddZabVD0G

— ESPN (@espn) August 8, 2018

The Dubs tip off the season on Tuesday, Oct. 16, by raising another title banner (DeMarcus Cousins won’t be healthy enough to play yet) before taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder. To no surprise, the Warriors have the NBA’s highest win total at 63.5, while the Thunder are at 49.5. Golden State probably could win 70 if it wanted to, but expect the team to largely skate through the regular season after playing in four straight Finals. A few sportsbooks already have Opening Night odds out, with the Warriors at -8.5.

The other marquee Opening Night matchup is Philadelphia at Boston (-4.5) on Oct. 16 in what should be the return from injury for Celtics stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Those two teams also play in Boston on Christmas afternoon. The Celtics have the league’s second-highest win total at 58.5, while Philly is at 54.5. Oct. 16 is the earliest NBA start date since the 1980-81 season began on Oct. 10.

One very under-the-radar intriguing matchup in the first week is Dallas at Phoenix on Wednesday, Oct. 17 on ESPN. That features the two Rookie of the Year betting favorites in the Mavs’ Luka Doncic and Suns’ Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick.

The full NBA schedule is out Friday.

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