Some notes on the 2015-16 NBA schedule, released Wednesday by the league office:
Golden State gets its championship rings and one more night to revel in last season’s accomplishments on Oct. 27, when New Orleans - the team the Warriors swept in the first round of last season’s playoffs - visits to complete the NBA’s opening-night tripleheader. Detroit at Atlanta and Cleveland at Chicago precede Golden State’s banner-raising night, which will be shown on TNT.
1 VS 2, AND KOBE TOO
Kobe Bryant’s 20th NBA season begins at home Oct. 28, when he and the Los Angeles Lakers play host to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Bryant’s first NBA game was against Minnesota on Nov. 3, 1996 (that technically was the Lakers’ second game that season; he didn’t play in their opener in his rookie year). And it also pits the top two picks in this year’s draft, with Minnesota’s No. 1 Karl-Anthony Towns and the Lakers’ No. 2 D’Angelo Russell. It’s Kobe’s 20th season, but neither Towns nor Russell will have turned 20 when this game is played.
LeBron James gets to play host to his former team only once this season: Miami’s lone visit to Cleveland is Oct. 30. (The Cavs go to Miami twice, Dec. 5 and March 19). Also on Oct. 30, Oklahoma City visits Orlando - meaning Thunder coach Billy Donovan will face the Magic franchise that he agreed to coach several years ago but never did, returning instead to the Florida Gators.
SENSE OF HUMOR?
ESPN has a doubleheader on Nov. 11 - the Los Angeles Clippers at Dallas, and San Antonio at Portland. The Clippers-Mavs game will mark DeAndre Jordan’s first trip to Dallas as an opponent since spurning Mark Cuban’s franchise in one of the summer’s most memorable soap operas. And the Trail Blazers will get to see LaMarcus Aldridge visit in Spurs’ colors for the first time.
There’s a pair of regular-season games in non-NBA cities. The league returns to Mexico City on Dec. 3 when Boston plays Sacramento, and goes back to London on Jan. 14 when Orlando meets Toronto. The Kings and the Raptors will be the home teams for those games. (That doesn’t count the NBA’s preseason games in Vancouver, Milan, Madrid, Winnipeg, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Ottawa, Rio de Janeiro and Montreal.) The Celtics will play games in four countries this season - Spain, Mexico, and of course the United States and Canada.
Utah had a rough offseason, losing Dante Exum to a knee injury. The start of the regular season doesn’t seem to shape up as particularly easy for the Jazz, either. They open with 10 of their first 14 away from home, and don’t even play back-to-back home games for the first time until the end of November.
The NBA’s Christmas Day quintuple-header: New Orleans at Miami, noon (ESPN); Chicago at Oklahoma City, 2:30 p.m. (ABC); Cleveland at Golden State in an NBA Finals rematch, 5 p.m. (ABC); San Antonio at Houston, 8 p.m. (ESPN); Clippers at Lakers, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN). The New York Knicks, who’ve been in 50 Christmas games going back to the league’s very first one in 1947, get the holiday off this year.
SPEAKING OF THE FINALS
Golden State’s return trip to Cleveland is Jan. 18, part of the league’s rundown of games on another showcase holiday - Martin Luther King Day. It’ll be Golden State’s first time back in Cleveland since clinching the title in Game 6 of last season’s NBA Finals. As has become tradition, Atlanta (hosting Orlando) and Memphis (hosting New Orleans) are also among the teams home on MLK Day.
SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIALS
ABC is picking up a package of Saturday night games this season, starting Jan. 23 when Chicago goes to Cleveland. Other Saturday-nighters on the network: San Antonio at Cleveland (Jan. 30); Golden State at the Los Angeles Clippers (Feb. 20); Golden State at Oklahoma City (Feb. 27); Houston at Chicago (March 5); Oklahoma City at San Antonio (March 12); Golden State at San Antonio (March 19); and Cleveland at Chicago (April 9). That means a total of only seven teams will be taking part in the eight games, with the Bulls, Cavaliers, Spurs and Warriors all appearing three times.
There’s four games on Feb. 7, Super Bowl Sunday. But all the matchups - Denver at New York, Atlanta at Orlando, the Clippers at Miami and Sacramento at Boston - tip off at either 1, 2 or 3 p.m. Eastern, meaning all the NBA’s on-court work that day should be done in plenty of time for kickoff of the NFL’s biggest game. (But once again, the NBA has no games on April 4, the night when the NCAA men’s basketball champion for 2016 will be crowned.)
The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo takes place next year at the AT&T Center from Feb. 11-28, which means that’s when the Spurs will get their annual long … really long road trip. The Spurs play host to the Lakers on Feb. 6, then aren’t back home until March 2 against Detroit. In all, eight games (at Miami on Feb. 9, at Orlando on Feb. 10, at the Clippers on Feb. 18, at the Lakers on Feb. 19, at Phoenix on Feb. 21, at Sacramento on Feb. 24, at Utah on Feb. 25 and at Houston on Feb. 27) await the Spurs over that stretch, which also includes the league’s All-Star break.
The regular-season ends April 13, except in the cases of Oklahoma City and New York (they both wrap up their 82-game slates the previous night).
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