By Art Garcia, NBA.com
Posted Aug 4 2010 12:48PM
This decision was hardly a surprise.
When it came time for the league honchos and TV big wigs to hash out which team would christen the NBA's new campaign, there had to be just one question: Opponent?
|2010-11 NBA Marquee Games|
|The NBA has released the national network schedule for KIA NBA Tip Off '10, Christmas Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The full NBA schedule will be released on Aug. 10.|
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh's debut as Miami teammates was really the only tip-off choice, and the Heat's 2010-11 tour gets started against the squad they're aiming for in the revved-up Eastern Conference. Count on the Boston Celtics gearing up for a rude welcome for the South Beach glamour boys in the first nationally-televised game of the season.
There were several options ripe with drama when it came to picking the Heat's first foe. Kobe Bryant and the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers would certainly have been up for the challenge. (More on Lakers-Heat later.) Imagine the fireworks in an interstate showdown with the Orlando Magic. (That's coming, too.) The Cleveland Cavaliers?
OK, that would have been cruel.
Instead, it's Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Co. in an early litmus test at the TD Garden for the NBA runner-ups and Pat Riley's hand-picked Super Friends. The Miami-Boston experience at 7:30 p.m. ET on Oct. 26 is the opening act for TNT's doubleheader, and the unveilings don't end in Beantown.
The Lakers begin their threepeat quest by breaking out their new rings in the nightcap at Staples Center against Houston. The last Tuesday night in October not only serves as the first official look at Bryant, Phil Jackson, Pau Gasol and the rest of the champs, but it also marks the return of Rockets All-Star center Yao Ming for the first time since the 2009 playoffs. Yao is on track for healthy return to prominence -- and Houston plans to do the same in the West -- after missing last season recovering from foot surgery.
The stars continue to shine and the storylines continue to build as ESPN gets busy the following night with its high-powered double feature. The beefed-up Chicago Bulls face the league's new TV darlings in the Oklahoma City Thunder. Up next, the Portland Trail Blazers hope for a fit beginning to the season as they visit the Vinny Del Negro-coached Los Angeles Clippers.
That's just the start of opening week of basketball festivities. TNT is back at it Oct. 28 with the launch of No. 1 pick John Wall's career inside the Orlando's new Amway Center. That's followed by the We-Lost-Our-All-Star-Power-Forwards clash between the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz.
Those waiting for that first Sunshine State showdown of super powers, the wait wasn't long. Dial up ESPN on Oct. 29 as Orlando heads south to get all cozy with Miami. Dwight Howard might actually acknowledge the Heat by then.
Want more Heat? You're going to get plenty this season, including a juicy Christmas Day stopover in Hollywood to tangle with the Lakers on ABC. The five-game holiday extravaganza also includes an East finals rematch in Boston-Orlando and the We-Got-New-All-Star-Power-Forwards clash in Chicago-New York.
The three-game Martin Luther King Day schedule is capped off by another playoff rematch, as Kevin Durant and the Thunder call on the Lakers. NBA TV also has a four-game slate to bring opening week to a close.
NBA.com will announce the full 2010-11 regular season schedule on Aug. 10.
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