Posted Aug 11 2010 6:26AM
Life as a curiosity factor became more apparent to the Heat on Tuesday as the NBA released the full regular-season schedule. A travel-heavy early run puts them on full display and adds to the challenge of a team expected to produce crushing results despite no proof of cohesion.
Miami's home-road breakdown is split evenly between the first half and second half of the season, but six of the appearances at AmericanAirlines Arena are in a November homestand. Beyond that, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh & Co. will not get more than two games in a row there until late February, while getting a stretch of four road games in six outings, another of five in six contests and another of four in five, all before Christmas.
Even that Dec. 25 benchmark is unique: the Heat are getting a two-game West Coast trip in an unusual, and no doubt unwanted, itinerary. Monday at home, Thursday night in Phoenix, Saturday/Christmas Day in Los Angeles against the Lakers, Tuesday back in South Florida. That's a lot of flight time for not a lot of game time.
Mostly, it's the cost of being the 2010-11 Heat -- have klieg lights, will travel. A Christmas showdown with the Lakers was an automatic from the moment of James' signing, leaving only location to be decided. The two-time defending champions will be in Miami on March 10.
It's the glamour of three stars on the same team in a chic, international city, the unknown of how the collision of egos will play out, and also the potential ugliness. TNT is covering the Heat at Cavaliers on Dec. 2, expecting to capture James returning to a warm embrace. The Cavaliers at AmericanAirlines Arena on Dec. 15 and Jan. 31 will be much more basketball-centric, but the first trip of his life to Cleveland as a visitor will be cauldron of hostility.
Other games will be underlined with uncomfortable reunions. The Heat are in Toronto on Feb. 16 and April 13 in the Bosh homecomings, the Bulls go to Utah on Feb. 9 for Carlos Boozer's return, and Amar'e Stoudemire makes his only scheduled visit to Phoenix with the Knicks on Jan. 7.
There are also the marquee matchups created on the court. The Lakers open their title defense with a pre-game ring ceremony Oct. 26 against the Rockets at Staples Center and face the Celtics in Finals rematches Jan. 30 in Los Angeles and Feb. 10 in Boston.
Other highlights in the release of the full schedule following last week's announcement of several marquee games:
• The Trail Blazers, hoping to bounce back from a disappointing and often-frustrating 2009-10, play 16 road games by Dec. 15. That's about 40 percent of the travel in slightly more than the first month and a half. There's little chance to catch their breath at the Rose Garden, either. The 10 contests at the Rose Garden in that time include two games against the Suns and one each against the Thunder, Nuggets, Jazz and Magic.
• The Celtics play 13 of their final 21 games on the road, hardly the way a very veteran team would hope to be resting up for the playoffs.
• San Antonio's annual Rodeo Trip, so named because the Spurs take an extended leave every February to allow a massive rodeo to take over the arena and surrounding grounds, is not the usual trek. Unlike past years when the All-Star break was used to break a long journey into at least two and sometimes three shorter ones, the Spurs of 2010-11 will play three games on the West Coast, return home for a couple days of rest and practice and then go into a six-game Eastern swing. The All-Star break comes after that.
• The Nets and Raptors have cushions built in, as expected, before the travel challenges of regular-season games in London on March 4-5. New Jersey has a Monday home game before playing in England on Friday and Saturday, then next plays Wednesday in Newark. Toronto is at home Tuesday before crossing the Atlantic and also has until Wednesday to re-adjust with a home game.
• The Clippers are just so thrilled to have the All-Star Game at Staples Center. They get an eight-game trip to allow the building to be prepped for the midseason showcase, get the break, then head right out for two more, not counting the meeting with the Lakers that technically is another roadie. In all, the Clippers leave town for 16 of 20. The Lakers are gone for seven in a row leading up to All-Star weekend, but at least get to play at home after that.
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