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10 Must Watch Games to Open NBL22

Written for nbl.com.au by Chris Pike

The highly anticipated #NBL22 season will begin at the start of December and there are no shortages of mouth watering match ups in the opening month to get you ready for what lies ahead.

Here are 10 of them to keep your eyes out for:

FRIDAY - DECEMBER 3
Tasmania JackJumpers v Adelaide 36ers – MyState Bank Arena

What a perfect way to open up the #NBL22 season with the Tasmania JackJumpers making their NBL debut with a home game in Hobart by hosting an Adelaide 36ers team coached for the first time by a living legend.

There is great excitement over Tasmania being represented in the NBL for the first time since 1996 and with Scott Roth at the helm of a team in the league to make his head coaching debut, he'll be looking to give the passionate and patient home fans plenty to cheer about in their debut appearance.

However, up against them are the CJ Bruton coached Sixers with one of the NBL's great winners with six championships under his belt from a 516-game career now embarking on his own journey as a head coach for the first time.

A win first up would be a huge confidence boost that both the JackJumpers and 36ers will be desperate to gain from the season-opener.
 
FRIDAY - DECEMBER 3 
Perth Wildcats v Brisbane Bullets – RAC Arena

As soon as the action is finished down in Hobart, attention turns to a more familiar setting on opening night with RAC Arena sure to be packed to the rafters for the new look Perth Wildcats to host the Brisbane Bullets.

It will be a fascinating opening night contest with teams under the leadership of new coaches for the first time in several years as they embark on new eras.

What an era it was too for the Wildcats under Trevor Gleeson with five championships in eight seasons and now Scott Morrison takes over as a completely new face to the NBL.

However, he has 2020 Coach of the Year Mike Kelly by his side and Bryce Cotton ready to hit the ground running in the new season after having to sit out of the finals campaign last season through injury.

For the first time since returning to the league, the Bullets won't be coached by Andrej Lemanis either with James Duncan taking over.

Both coaches will be making not only their NBL coaching debuts, but coaching their first official games in Australia and then of course, don't forget Vic Law lining up for the 'Cats up against the Bullets where he was so popular and effective last season before getting hurt.

SATURDAY - DECEMBER 4
Cairns Taipans v NZ Breakers – Cairns Convention Centre

Plenty to look out for in this one as the opening weekend continues on Saturday night with the Cairns Taipans at home to the New Zealand Breakers.

Both teams missed out on the playoffs last season and now have significantly new-look squads including the Snakes being coached by Adam Forde while it's a Breakers team minus the Webster brothers in #NBL22.

There's plenty to be excited about for this season-opener for both teams, though, including a potential early battle between Next Star Ousmane Dieng for the Breakers and the man thought of as an early Defensive Player of the Year candidate Tahjere McCall for the Taipans.

Add in that the Snakes will be making their return to the renovated Cairns Convention Centre and this should be a fascinating season-opener for so many reasons.
 
SUNDAY - DECEMBER 5 
Adelaide 36ers v Brisbane Bullets – Adelaide Entertainment Centre

It's only Sunday of the opening week of the season but already the Adelaide 36ers and Brisbane Bullets will be playing their second matches.

This will take on extra intrigue depending on how the Sixers go away to the JackJumpers and the Bullets perform in Perth back on the Friday night, but the match up itself has plenty to salivate over.
 
CJ Bruton had his eyes set on the head coaching job at the Bullets now occupied by American James Duncan so with Bruton at the helm of the 36ers, this is his first chance to go up against the team he was assistant coach with under Andrej Lemanis.

Throw in the built-in rivalry that exists between the team and the Sixers fans ready to fill Adelaide Entertainment Centre and see their new team in person for the first time in #NBL22, and this is one you don't want to miss.

SUNDAY - DECEMBER 5 
Sydney Kings v Melbourne United – Qudos Bank Arena 

Seeing the names of the Sydney Kings and Melbourne United on the billboard is enough to get you pumped for this season-opener for both teams on the Sunday of the opening round.

There couldn’t be a bigger way to close out the first weekend of the #NBL22 season with the Kings looking for a fast start under new coach Chase Buford in front of their home fans who will be desperate to get back to Qudos Bank Arena and cheer on their team again.

Awaiting them, though, is the defending NBL champion Melbourne United who will unveil NBA champion and Australian Boomers regular Matthew Dellavedova to make his NBL debut.

These games never fail to deliver so expect the unexpected when they hit the floor to open their seasons.

SATURDAY - DECEMBER 11
Sydney Kings v Illawarra Hawks – Qudos Bank Arena 

The first instalment of this NSW rivalry will be a welcome one as well by the fans of both clubs with the Kings looking for another home win while there'll be plenty of supporters travelling from the 'Gong to try and lift the Hawks.

Illawarra is coming off a stirring finals run last season under the coaching of the legendary Brian Goorjian who then went on to lead Australia to an historic bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Any time Goorjian returns to Sydney it's full of emotion after he took the Kings to three titles and that sets up quite the challenge for new coach Chase Buford who gets his first chance to go up against the master.

That's just one of a host of reasons why this is a big contest to look out for in Round 2.

SUNDAY - DECEMBER 12
Melbourne United v South East Melbourne Phoenix – John Cain Arena

It's fair to say the Throwdowns went to another level in the finals of last season and now they renew hostilities early on in the 2021/22 NBL season at John Cain Arena.

The hopes are that a big crowd will be allowed into the stadium to mark the occasion as well after it was quite the unique experience for the Melbourne rivals to do battle in the semi finals last season at Sydney's Qudos Bank Arena.

That series went to three games before United overcame the Phoenix on the way to the championship but the rivalry became real with their finals battle and now this will be a fascinating early season meeting.

Getting back to play in front of the Melbourne crowd will be just the tonic both clubs have been craving too.

SUNDAY - DECEMBER 12
Adelaide 36ers v Perth Wildcats – Adelaide Entertainment Centre

They are the longest and most-storied rivals in the history of the NBL and this one is going to have a distinctly different look about it.

The 36ers and Wildcats have a remarkable history but this will be the first time for CJ Bruton and Scott Morrison to lead their teams into battle against one another.

Bruton has more of a history right now with Perth than Adelaide given his father Cal's journey at the 'Cats and with it being where he started his NBL journey before then ending it at the New Zealand Breakers where it was the Wildcats who became their great rivals.

Any time the 36ers and Wildcats go at it there is that extra bit of spice, we still saw that last season and expect nothing less this time around.

FRIDAY - DECEMBER 17
Perth Wildcats v Tasmania JackJumpers – RAC Arena

The Tasmania JackJumpers make their debut at RAC Arena in Round 3 but there are no shortage of members of the team familiar with the Perth Wildcats.

Scott Roth was assistant coach at the 'Cats before being appointed head coach at the JackJumpers, his assistant Mark Radford spent time in Perth going back a decade and then you have ex-Wildcats players Clint Steindl, Jarred Bairstow and Will Magnay.

There is no bigger test than trying to win in The Jungle so this early challenge will tell us a lot about the JackJumpers as they try to topple the powerhouse yet new-look Wildcats early in #NBL22.

SUNDAY - DECEMBER 26
Tasmania JackJumpers v NZ Breakers – MyState Bank Arena
Sydney Kings v Melbourne United – Qudos Bank Arena
Brisbane Bullets v Cairns Taipans – Nissan Arena

Get your Christmas celebrations behind you and get ready for the first ever triple-header in NBL history on Boxing Day.

Forget the Boxing Day Test, this year it's all about the NBL on December 26 and what a trio of matches we have to look forward to.

It all gets underway with the JackJumpers hosting the Breakers before two fierce rivalries have another chapter written into their stories.

The Kings and United clash in Sydney and that needs no introduction and nor does the Sunshine Stoush between Queensland rivals the Bullets and Taipans when they look horns in Brisbane to close out the Boxing Day triple-header of NBL action.

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