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NBA to tip off season with opening night rivalries

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Published in Basketball
Wednesday, 17 August 2022 16:03

The NBA unveiled its schedule for the 2022-23 season Wednesday afternoon, which kicks off with a pair of long-standing rivalries involving the two teams that reached last season's NBA Finals.

The 2022-23 NBA regular season will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 18, with the Philadelphia 76ers traveling to face their forever rivals, the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers heading up the Pacific coast to take on the 2022 NBA champion Golden State Warriors at Chase Center, on the night when Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson will all be collecting their fourth championship rings.

Opening week will then continue Wednesday, when ESPN will have its first doubleheader of the season, kicked off by the New York Knicks traveling to Memphis to take on Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies. That will be followed by a rematch of last year's Western Conference semifinal between the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns in Phoenix -- the site of Dallas' stunning rout to end the top-seeded Suns' season on their home court in Game 7 of that series.

In addition to those games, the Orlando Magic and top 2022 NBA draft pick Paolo Banchero will open their season in Detroit against the Detroit Pistons and the No. 1 selection in the 2021 NBA draft, guard Cade Cunningham, while Rudy Gobert will make his Minnesota Timberwolves debut at home against the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft, Chet Holmgren, and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In addition, the New Orleans Pelicans -- who will expect to have Zion Williamson on the court after he missed all of last season -- will open in Brooklyn against the Nets, who, as of now, are still scheduled to have Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons play together for the first time.

Thursday will see another TNT doubleheader, as the Milwaukee Bucks will face the Sixers, followed by an all-L.A. showdown between the Clippers and Lakers at Arena, while Friday will see ESPN feature first a rematch of the Eastern Conference finals slugfest between the Celtics and Miami Heat, followed by the Denver Nuggets traveling to San Francisco to take on the Warriors.

The first weekend of the NBA season will then feature three notable home debuts: Banchero and the Magic hosting the Celtics on Saturday, the same day that Jamal Murray is expected to return to the court in Denver for the first time in almost two years to face the Thunder. Oklahoma City will then host the Wolves Sunday, in what will be Holmgren's home debut.

In addition to once again showing all five games on Christmas Day -- 76ers-Knicks, Lakers-Mavericks, Bucks-Celtics, Grizzlies-Warriors and Suns-Nuggets -- ESPN/ABC will also see its annual Saturday and Sunday showcase games return this season, all of which will air on ABC.

The Saturday schedule will kick off with the Celtics heading to San Francisco to face the Warriors in an NBA Finals rematch on Dec. 10. That will be followed by: Bucks-Heat on Jan. 14; Nuggets-76ers, Knicks-Nets and Lakers-Celtics on Jan. 28; Mavericks-Warriors on Feb. 4; Lakers-Warriors on Feb. 11; Celtics-76ers on Feb. 25; 76ers-Bucks on March 4; and Bucks-Warriors on March 11.

There will be three Sundays, meanwhile, featuring marquee matchups: Grizzlies-Celtics on Feb. 12; Suns-Bucks and Lakers-Mavericks on Feb. 26; and Suns-Mavericks and Warriors-Lakers on March 5.

As the NBA announced earlier this week, there won't be any games on Election Day -- Tuesday, Nov. 8 -- as the league will instead have all 30 teams play the night before in an effort to raise awareness among its fan base to get out and vote. Two other usual marquee dates on the schedule will, however, return with games: Thanksgiving eve and Martin Luther King Day.

Thanksgiving eve will feature an ESPN doubleheader of the Mavericks in Boston to face the Celtics, followed by the Clippers traveling to Golden State to take on the Warriors. MLK Day, meanwhile, will showcase a pair of TNT games: the Miami Heat at the Atlanta Hawks, followed by the Suns in Memphis to face the Grizzlies.

There will also be a typically robust schedule coming in and out of the All-Star break surrounding this season's All-Star Game, which will be held in Salt Lake City. In the days leading up to the break, Boston will travel to Milwaukee, and Golden State will travel to Los Angeles to play the Clippers on TNT on Valentine's Day; the Heat will face the Nets in Brooklyn, and the Pelicans will also travel to Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Wednesday, Feb. 15; and the pre-All-Star schedule will wrap up with the Bucks in Chicago against the Bulls and the Clippers in Phoenix against the Suns on TNT on Thursday, Feb. 16.

Coming out of the break, a matchup between Morant's Grizzlies and Williamson's Pelicans in New Orleans will be followed by the Warriors again in Los Angeles to play the Lakers at 10 p.m. on Feb. 23 on TNT, with Miami traveling to Milwaukee and the Nets going to Chicago to play the Bulls on ESPN on Friday, Feb. 24.

As always, there will also be several "reunion" games throughout the season, with players going back to face their former teams for the first time. Two of them will involve two teams: the 76ers and Nets. Ben Simmons, who sat out last season's return to Philadelphia following his trade to Brooklyn, is scheduled to play his first game there since the trade on Tuesday, Nov. 22, on TNT. James Harden, meanwhile, will make his return to Brooklyn on Feb. 11.

Gobert will go back to Utah to face the Jazz on Dec. 9, while Jalen Brunson will return to Dallas with his new team, the Knicks, on Dec. 27, and All-Star guard Dejounte Murray will go back to San Antonio for the first time since being traded to the Hawks this offseason on March 19.

Then there is the Donovan Mitchell situation, which continues to be unresolved. If a long-discussed trade to the Knicks does materialize, however, the Knicks will be in Utah on Nov. 15, a game that's scheduled to air on TNT, while the Jazz will come to Madison Square Garden on Feb. 11, two days after the NBA's trade deadline this season.

As for the top three picks in this year's NBA draft -- Banchero, Holmgren and Houston's Jabari Smith Jr. -- they'll all see each other on the court within the first few weeks of the season.

Banchero's Magic will face Holmgren's Thunder in Oklahoma City on Nov. 1 on TNT, while the Rockets and Magic will square off in Orlando, Florida, on Nov. 7, and the Thunder and Rockets will play in Houston on Nov. 26 on NBA TV.

Over the past several years, the NBA has made efforts to reduce wear and tear on its players, something it again tried to do this season. The league is increasing the number of games with no travel between road games from 53 to 88 this season -- 55 of which came from playing the same team in the same city two games in a row, and 33 of which came from playing two straight games in either New York or Los Angeles. Back-to-backs have also dropped again this season, from 13.5 per team last season to 13.3 this season. Since the 2014-15 season, the average number of back-to-backs per team has dropped by a full six games.

The NBA has also created an "NBA Rivals Week" for the week of Jan. 23, with 11 nationally televised games featuring various rivalries across the league, including battles for New York and Los Angeles and a rematch of the 2019 NBA Finals between the Lakers and Toronto Raptors.

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