Circle you calendars, eight key games for the Hawks

The NBA released the 2016-17 regular-season schedule on Thursday. Here are eight games to circle on your calendar:

Nov. 8 at Cavaliers

In an early-season matchup with the defending NBA champions, the Hawks will get a chance to see about those offseason changes. After being swept by the Cavaliers the past two postseasons, including the Eastern Conference finals in 2015, the Hawks made significant changes to the roster. Al Horford left via free agency and Jeff Teague was traded. It’s usually more important how a team plays near the end of the season and the Hawks do have back-to-back games with the Cavaliers on April 7 and 9. However, the Cavaliers will still be favored in the Eastern Conference and the first matchup will be a good indication of how the Hawks stack up.

Dec. 3 at Raptors

The Raptors will be another top team in the East and a significant challenge to the Hawks It will be the first matchup between the teams. There are plenty of top-notch backcourts in the NBA but the Raptors feature All-Stars and Olympians Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Dennis Schroder will get an early test in his new role of starting point guard. The Hawks only host the Raptors once and the Air Canada Center is a tough place to play. It will one of the toughest games the Hawks play in their first 21 contests.

Dec. 7 vs. Heat

Dwyane Wade is gone. The long-time Heat star left for Chicago. The status of Chris Bosh remains in doubt. The Heat, who edged out the Hawks for the No. 4 seed in the East las season, figure to be a much different team. The early-season matchup will be a chance for the Hawks to distance themselves from the division rival.

Jan. 13 vs. Celtics

Here comes the Boss. After nine seasons in Atlanta and - not coincidentally – nine straight trips to the postseason, Horford will wear a different uniform next season. He will don the green of the Celtics. The game will be the first in Atlanta for the four-time All-Star center. It will be weird watching Horford in a different uniform and number (42) after his years of service and success with the Hawks.

Jan. 16 at Knicks

The Hawks will once again play on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. However, for the first time in 16 years, the team will not host the afternoon game at Philips Arena. Instead, they will be in New York to play the Knicks. King and Atlanta have a deep connection. This doesn’t feel right.

Feb. 2 at Rockets

The Hawks lured eight-time All-Star from the Rockets as an unrestricted free agent as the center returned to his hometown team. He will make his first appearance in Houston, the third of his NBA cities since being the No. 1 overall pick in 2004, since he opted out of the final year of his contract for a fresh start.

March 5 vs. Pacers

Teague will make his only trip to Atlanta after he spent his first seven seasons with the Hawks. The point guard requested a trade this summer and the Hawks granted his wish by sending him back home to Indianapolis. The move cleared the way for Schroder to take over the position. Teague just might have something to prove. In addition, the Pacers made several other significant moves this summer to improve their roster and make themselves a contender again.

March 6 vs. Warriors

The new and improved - how is that possible? – Warriors will make their only visit to Atlanta. After setting the NBA record for most wins in a season and a trip to the Finals, the Warriors convinced Kevin Durant to join them as an unrestricted free agent. The Hawks play at the Warriors in November as part of their first West Coast trip. However, this will be Atlanta’s only chance to see how dominant the Warriors just may be.

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About the Author

Chris Vivlamore
Chris Vivlamore
Chris Vivlamore is the sports editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has served as reporter and editor at the AJC since 2003.