Plenty of LeBron James, Stephen Curry on big stages as NBA releases 2015-16 schedule
For NBA junkies, this is like opening presents on Christmas morning — the NBA schedule is out.
There are 1,230 games out there to be played starting on Oct. 27 and running through April — and that’s before the two months of NBA playoffs start. It’s a marathon.
But there are highlights — and the NBA still is the master of getting its biggest stars on its biggest stages, meaning you’re going to get a lot of LeBron James and Stephen Curry. Here are some schedule highlights.
• Opening night, Oct. 27, we get a double-header on TNT:
Cleveland at Chicago: Arguably the two top teams in the East. Well, no argument about Cleveland in the top slot, but are the Bulls and new coach Fred Hoiberg going to grab that second slot? Also, LeBron James vs. Derrick Rose in a rematch of a fun playoff series from last year
New Orleans at Golden State: Stephen Curry and the Warriors swept Anthony Davis and the Pelicans out in the first round of the playoffs last season, but it wasn’t that simple. Now a healthy and improved New Orleans — with coach Alvin Gentry, just hired away from the Warriors — comes to the Bay Area looking to spoil the night the banner goes up at Oracle (title teams often struggle in this game, they tend not to be focused).
Also that night, but not nationally televised, Detroit at Atlanta.
• The next night, Oct. 28, San Antonio at Oklahoma City: Is Kevin Durant all the way back? How is LaMarcus Aldridge fitting in with the Spurs? We will get some early (but far from definitive) answers to those questions.
Also Oct. 28, New York is at Milwaukee — the first time the Bucks have opened at home since 1984. Milwaukee made the playoffs and looks like a team on the rise, and they have been rewarded with a dozen nationally televised games.
Finally that same night, Minnesota is at the Los Angeles Lakers — No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns of the Timberwolves vs. No. 2 D’Angelo Russell of the Lakers.
• On Oct. 29, Dallas at Los Angeles Clippers. DeAndre Jordan’s first matchup against the Mavericks — the team he reversed course on and spurned this summer — is in the friendly confines of Staples Center (where they are happy to have him back).
• Wednesday, Nov. 11, will be the night of returns:
San Antonio at Portland: The one big free agent changing teams this summer was LaMarcus Aldridge heading to San Antonio. How will he be received by Blazers’ faithful, and can the Spurs beat a fired up Damian Lillard and Portland?
Los Angeles Clippers at Dallas: Now it gets fun. Jordan faces the team he agreed to play for then backed out on in the American Airlines Arena — it is going to rain boos in Dallas like a Spring thunderstorm.
• Dec. 5, Cleveland at Miami: Everybody has pretty much moved on from LeBron heading home (except maybe Pat Riley) but this is still a matchup of two of the top teams in the East.
• Dec. 23, Dallas at Brooklyn: Deron Williams returns to Brooklyn — where his star never burned as brightly as Nets fans hoped — with his new team the Dallas Mavericks.
• Christmas Day, Dec. 25, the unofficial start of the NBA season for casual fans, will feature five games again:
Chicago at Oklahoma City: Two teams near the top of their conferences and with star power will pay in the first of two ABC national games. Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol vs. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Cleveland at Golden State: This NBA Finals matchup features the two biggest stars in the game — Curry and LeBron James — and drew the biggest NBA television ratings since the Jordan era. You think the NBA would miss a chance to put that in their prime Christmas slot?
Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers: Is this our last Christmas with Kobe Bryant? This is all you need to know about the strength of the Lakers’ brand — as bad as they were last season, for all the questions about the one coming up, you can’t get them off the Christmas Day card. Or, look at it this way: The Lakers have 19 nationally televised games, the same number as the Western Conference Finalist Houston Rockets.
The other two Christmas Day games: Anthony Davis and New Orleans at Miami, then San Antonio at Houston.
• Jan. 14, Orlando vs. Toronto: It’s the rare mid-week NBA day game — because it’s being played in London at the O2 arena.
• On Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 18), the TNT double-header is the other NBA Finals rematch with Golden State at Cleveland, then at night a great playoff rematch with Houston at the Los Angeles Clippers.
• Feb. 6, Oklahoma City at Golden State: The last two MVPs — Durant and Curry — face off in a national ESPN game, part of their new Saturday night package (which starts in 2016 after the college football season).
• Feb. 8 Los Angeles Lakers at Indiana: A couple years ago Roy Hibbert was seen as a cornerstone of a young, impressive Pacers team. Now they have pushed him out the door. This is the night he returns to the Fieldhouse in Lakers gold to take on the Pacers.
• Feb. 18, coming out of the All-Star break, TNT has a killer double-header: Chicago at Cleveland, followed by the Spurs at the Clippers.
• Last season there were 70 instances where teams had four games in five nights (almost always on the road), it’s one of the big complaints of teams and where they often rest guys. This season there are just 27 instances, the league has worked to cut those back.
• Teams will have an averaged of 17.8 games in back-to-back situations, that is down from 19.3 last season. Improved, but the league has a long way to go here.
• Entering year three of their tank-a-thon, the Philadelphia 76ers have no national television games scheduled. The Pistons, a team that could be in the playoff mix in the East, also are not on the national schedule.
• Once again, there is a