This time last year, we compiled a full schedule of NBA games pitting one former Gonzaga basketball player against one another.
That was a laborious task with nine ex-Bulldogs on eight NBA rosters and doesn’t get any easier in 2023-24.
When the regular season starts on Tuesday, there will be 11 former GU players on 11 NBA rosters.
For our own convenience, and for the sake of preserving space in this insert, we decided this year to hand-select a variety of the most intriguing games featuring former GU players.
Here are 10 games worth adding to your viewing calendar before the NBA season starts.
Oct. 24 – Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets (ESPN)
Julian Strawther won’t receive any jewelry , but the rest of his Denver teammates will get their championship rings in a pregame ceremony at Ball Arena. Rui Hachimura could be in the starting lineup for a Lakers team that could be one of the Western Conference teams standing in the Nuggets’ way of back-to-back title runs.
Oct. 25 – Oklahoma City Thunder at Chicago Bulls
Chet Holmgren’s NBA debut adds some sizzle to an opening-night matchup that wouldn’t attract too many eyeballs otherwise. The former No. 2 overall draft pick may not play 40 minutes, but there shouldn’t be any restrictions on Holmgren as he gets his first real action since Gonzaga’s Sweet 16 loss in 2022.
Oct. 27 – Golden State Warriors at Sacramento Kings (ESPN)
The rivalry between the Northern California foes escalated in the opening round of the 2023 Western Conference playoffs, in part because of a feud between former Zag Domantas Sabonis and Warriors standout Draymond Green. There could be more fireworks in the first of four games between Sacramento and Golden State during the regular season.
Nov. 14 – San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder (ESPN)
Victor Wembanyama is the betting favorite to win 2023-24 NBA Rookie of the Year honors, but Holmgren is also expected to make a push for the award after missing last season because of injury. When Wembanyama isn’t guarding Holmgren, former Gonzaga big man Zach Collins could be the Spurs player tasked with that assignment.
Nov. 15 – Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Lakers (ESPN)
Sabonis and Hachimura are seeing more of each other now that both are back in the same conference after starting their careers in Indiana and Washington, respectively. Sacramento and Los Angeles play four times in the regular season, but it’s not far-fetched to think the former Gonzaga frontcourt stalwarts could meet in a playoff series.
Nov. 17 – Sacramento Kings at San Antonio Spurs (ESPN)
The NBA’s new In-Season Tournament was designed to generate more excitement around the league before the playoffs. Gonzaga fans, in particular, should take interest in a nationally televised In-Season Tournament game between Collins’ Spurs and Sabonis’ Kings.
Jan. 10 – Denver Nuggets at Utah Jazz (ESPN)
Kelly Olynyk is expected to come off Utah’s bench this season but could still average around 25 minutes per game, which means the veteran forward/center will be part of the team’s plan to contain reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic.
Jan. 13 – Orlando Magic at Oklahoma City Thunder
The relationship between Holmgren and Jalen Suggs is well-documented. Longtime friends and high school/AAU teammates who missed each other at Gonzaga by one year will face off as opponents for the first time when Suggs’ Magic pay Holmgren’s Thunder a visit in mid-January. OKC makes a return trip to Orlando exactly one month later.
Jan. 30 – Indiana Pacers at Boston Celtics (TNT)
For those that don’t have a subscription to NBA League Pass, opportunities to see Andrew Nembhard could be scarce. Indiana’s current schedule shows just one national television game – in late January against Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the Boston Celtics.
March 6 – Memphis at Philadelphia (ESPN)
Memphis’ Brandon Clarke should be back from an Achilles tear by this point, and former Gonzaga frontcourt mate Filip Petrusev will have a chance to get on the court for Philadelphia, particularly if the 76ers are in a position to manage the workload of their starters and rotation players with 20 regular-season games left.