League celebrates 70th season with early-season playoff rematches, reductions in back-to-back, four games in five nights
POSTED: Aug 12, 2015 6:01 PM ET
Schedule Release Special: Opening Week
TNT's Rachel Nichols and Dennis Scott take a look at the games that will open the 2015-16 NBA season.
Playoff rematches between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls and the reigning champion Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans, the return of injured superstars Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant highlight the first nights of the 2015-16 NBA schedule, the full version of which was released Wednesday.
The celebrated Christmas Day schedule includes a Finals rematch between LeBron James and the Cavaliers facing reigning KIA MVP Stephen Curry and the Warriors at Oracle Arena; Pelicans star Anthony Davis taking his talents and team to Miami to face a revamped Heat team; Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and the Chicago Bulls visiting Oklahoma City to face Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and a healthy Thunder crew; a Texas-sized rivalry game with Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge and the San Antonio Spurs visiting James Harden, Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets and the Staples Center showdown featuring the Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul and Blake Griffin facing off against Bryant and the new-look Los Angeles Lakers.
The ten-game Martin Luther King Day slate includes the Warriors making their lone regular season trip to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers (on TNT), the Pelicans traveling to Memphis to face the Grizzlies (ESPN) and the Rockets and Clippers (TNT) rekindling their rivalry in the final game of the day at the Staples Center.
The schedule also features a week-long All-Star break for the second year in a row.
The season tips off Oct. 27 with a three-game slate that kicks off with the Cavaliers in Chicago to rekindle that playoff rivalry and the Warriors celebrating the traditional banner raising and ring night ceremony by hosting the Pelicans in a TNT double-header. Detroit visits Atlanta, a team coming off a franchise-best 60-win campaign and Eastern Conference finals appearance last season, in the other game on opening night.
The intrigue comes early and often with a number of matchups that highlight the early season schedule. The Spurs visit the Thunder, led by new coach Billy Donovan, and the Minnesota Timberwolves visit the Lakers on Oct. 28, the first ESPN double-header of the season. It'll be the first glimpse of Durant in a regular season game after injuries limited him to just 27 games last season and the first regular-season action for Kobe, in what could be his final season in a Lakers uniform and perhaps in the league, after injuries limited him to just 35 games last season.
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan makes his first trip to Dallas, where he committed to signing during free agency only to change his mind and remain with the Clippers, Nov. 11. That's the same night Aldridge makes his first trip back to Portland, where he was the face of the franchise for nine years, after departing for San Antonio in free agency.
The most significant changes to the schedule, however comes with the Saturday night ABC games and dramatic reduction of the four-games-in-five-nights scenarios and back-to-back games. Eight of ABC's 16 telecasts this season will take place in prime time on Saturday nights.
The stretches of four games in five nights and back-to-backs have been reduced to all-time lows, with the four-in-fives to an average of less than one per team (a total of 27 for an average of 0.9 per team, with a maximum of 2 and down 61 percent from last season). The team average for back-to-back games has been trimmed from 19.3 per team last season to 17.8 this season. The league has also created more efficiency in the schedule to ensure that teams will travel less for their back-to-back sets.
With a directive from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to be mindful of player rest and recuperation, NBA Senior Vice President, Basketball Operations Kiki VanDeWeghe said the changes were the product of a painstaking process that has produced the "best schedule" he's seen.
"You're dealing with 30 teams playing 82 games, so just the mathematics will tell you're limited when talking about all the arenas, team travel and local business and other considerations," VanDeWeghe said. "There are all sorts of things you are looking at. I must say, our broadcast partners at ABC, ESPN and Turner have all been cooperative. They added games to Thursday and opened up windows on Saturday and Sunday and that's been great for us. And we were still able to keep the extra days after All-Star Weekend. There were a lot of competing factors involved and in addition to the reductions in the four-in-five night sets and the back-to-backs, the travel time is reduced. Obviously, teams will not think the schedule is right over different stretches but we've had more cooperation across the board than we've ever had, and the numbers bear it out. Between the efforts of all involved I think we've come up with a schedule that's I can tell you is the best I've seen."
The Warriors, Cavaliers, Clippers, Thunder, Bulls and Spurs will be the teams featured most on national television this season. The Warriors (10 on ESPN, 10 on TNT and 5 on ABC) and Cavaliers (10, 9 and 6) are each scheduled for a total of 25 games. The Clippers (10, 10 and 4) and Thunder (10, 9 and 5) are scheduled for 24, the Bulls are scheduled for 23 (8, 10 and 3), the Spurs for 21 (9, 9 and 3).
ESPN and ABC will televise 90 games and TNT 53.
NBA TV will tip off its regular season coverage on Oct. 31 featuring Golden State at New Orleans followed by the L.A. Clippers at Sacramento. NBA TV will feature 31 doubleheaders this season, an all-time high for the network.
The regular season concludes on April 13 and the 2016 NBA playoffs will begin April 16.
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