NBA's 2017-18 schedule features early start, no four-games-in-five-days stretches

Season begins Oct. 17 and ends April 11 with a weeklong All-Star break

The action starts a week earlier for the 2017-18 NBA regular season, a move highlighted with Monday’s release of the complete game and broadcast schedule by the league.

In a continued effort to reduce travel stress and provide players with more recovery time, the season will be extended by a full week. Stretches where teams play four games in five nights have been completely eliminated, marking the first time in the NBA’s 72-year history with no four-in-fives.

> Complete 2017-18 NBA schedule

In addition to that unprecedented adjustment, the number of back-to-backs has been reduced to 14.4 per team from 16.3 per team — an all-time low for the third consecutive season. That’s a reduction in four-in-fives from 70 percent to zero in three seasons and a 26 percent reduction (4.9 per team) in back-to-backs during that same three-year stretch.

The season tips off Oct. 17 with an opening night doubleheader that includes the Boston Celtics visiting the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first game and the reigning champion Golden State Warriors hosting the Houston Rockets on the same night they raise their second championship banner in three seasons and are presented with their championship rings.

The final night of the regular season will be April 11, 2018. The schedule also includes a weeklong All-Star break for a fourth year in a row.

The league released the opening week national TV schedule and the blockbuster Christmas Day lineup late last week.

The Christmas Day schedule kicks off with the New York Knicks hosting the Philadelphia 76ers at Noon on ESPN. The much-anticipated Finals rematch between the Cavaliers and Warriors in Oakland headlines an ABC tripleheader at 3 p.m. ET, followed by the Washington Wizards visiting the Celtics at 5:30 p.m. ET and the Rockets visiting reigning Kia MVP Russell Westbrook and the new-look Oklahoma City Thunder at 8 p.m. ET. The Minnesota Timberwolves and rookie sensation Lonzo Ball and the Los Angeles Lakers wrap things up on TNT at 10:30 p.m. ET.

The second and final regular-season matchup between the Warriors and Cavaliers will be part of TNT’s tripleheader on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday, Jan. 15), the start of Week 14. The network’s coverage will begin with the Memphis Grizzlies hosting the Lakers (5:30 p.m. ET) and continue with the Warriors visiting Cleveland (8 p.m. ET). In the final game, the Rockets will play the LA Clippers in nine-time All-Star Chris Paul’s first visit to the Clippers as a Rocket since asking to be traded to Houston in July (10:30 p.m. ET).

Earlier that day, NBA TV will feature a doubleheader that will see Charlotte Hornets All-Star guard Kemba Walker and veteran big man Dwight Howard play at the Detroit Pistons in the opener (12:30 p.m. ET), followed by Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs at the Atlanta Hawks (3 p.m. ET).

Yet another new wrinkle this season will see the league label each week, Monday through Sunday, of the 1,230-game season, starting with that opening week and finishing with Week 26. Week 1 features 14 different teams playing eight national television games, as part of Kia NBA Tip-Off 2017, with TNT and ESPN each airing two doubleheaders.

The third season of ABC’s NBA Primetime features eight games, scheduled for Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. ET. The first of those is Jan. 20 with the Warriors visiting the Rockets. The ABC series concludes April 7 with the Thunder visiting the Rockets. The Feb. 10 Spurs-Warriors matchup at Oracle Arena in Oakland is another highlight of the Primetime schedule.

The Lakers and Thunder kick off ABC’s five-game Sunday afternoon slate on Feb. 4 at 2 p.m. ET in Oklahoma City.

ESPN’s regular-season coverage will also include 21 Wednesday doubleheaders and 14 Friday doubleheaders.

TNT’s Players Only franchise returns for a second season, with its roster of former NBA players in all broadcast roles, on Tuesday, Jan. 23 with a doubleahder that starts with the Cavaliers making their lone regular-season visit to San Antonio to face the Spurs in an 8 p.m. ET tip, followed by the rekindling of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry at 10:30 p.m. ET. Players Only telecasts will air on Tuesdays through April 3.

TNT will televise a total of 20 Thursday doubleheaders and 11 Tuesday doubleheaders and will also air the NBA All-Star 2018 events Feb. 16-18 in Los Angeles, culminating with the NBA’s 67th All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 18.

NBA TV’s regular-season coverage begins Oct. 21 with a doubleheader featuring the Warriors playing the Grizzlies in Memphis at 8 p.m. ET and the Phoenix Suns facing the Clippers in Los Angeles at 10:30 p.m. ET in the second game.

Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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