2021-22 Pistons schedule out: Cade Cunningham’s debut comes Oct. 20 at Little Caesars vs. Bulls

It won’t take long for Pistons fans to get their first look at Cade Cunningham at Little Caesars Arena – the season opener will be a home game against division rival Chicago on Oct. 20.

The NBA schedule returns to its customary 82-game format for the 2021-22 season after a 72-game season forced by the COVID-19 pandemic ended a month later than usual and pushed the NBA Finals into late July. The 2021-22 season expects to see a return to normalcy with fans in the stands for its traditional October opening with the regular season wrapping up by mid-April.

The Pistons again will field one of the NBA’s youngest teams with the addition of Cunningham, the 19-year-old taken with the No. 1 pick in the July draft – the first time the Pistons have added the draft’s top pick since taking Bob Lanier in 1970. Cunningham adds to the young core put in place by general manager Troy Weaver that includes Olympic gold medalist Jerami Grant and the “Core Four” 2020 draft picks – Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee. Kelly Olynyk and Trey Lyles will be newcomers via free agency.

The Pistons will play 12 back to backs during the season and they’re spread across the schedule with three apiece in November and February, two in January and one each in October, December, March and April. March is the Pistons busiest month when they play 16 games but they’ll fall into a desirable rhythm of playing every other day from March 7 to March 31 for a total of 13 games across 25 days.

After hosting the Bulls on Oct. 20, the Pistons play a return match in Chicago Oct. 23 to open their road schedule.

Among the most anticipated dates on the Little Caesars Arena schedule will be visits from Giannis Antetokounmpo and the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks Nov. 2 and April 8; Brooklyn’s big three of James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving dates on Nov. 5 and Dec. 12; LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers visiting on Nov. 21; Steph Curry and Golden State coming on Nov. 19; Joel Embiid and Philadelphia visits on Nov. 4 and March 31; Luka Doncic and Dallas coming April 6; Zion Williamson and New Orleans on Feb. 1; and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and Denver on Jan. 25. Houston and No. 2 pick Jalen Green come to town on Dec. 18; No. 3 pick Evan Mobley and Cleveland visit on Jan. 30 and Feb. 24.

The longest road trip of the season comes early, a five-game trip spanning nine days that takes the Pistons to Milwaukee, Los Angeles for games with both the Clippers and Lakers, Portland and Phoenix. That comes on the heels of their longest home stand, five games over nine days with visits from Sacramento, Indiana, Golden State, the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Nov. 15-23.

The two Eastern Conference teams the Pistons will play only once at home are Charlotte and Toronto; the two conference teams they’ll visit only once are Atlanta and New York. They play every other Eastern Conference opponent four times each.

The Pistons have eight home games apiece on Wednesdays and Fridays with six Sunday home games and five Saturday Little Caesars Arena dates.

The season will end on April 10, a Sunday, a departure from the traditional Wednesday finale for the 82-game schedule. The Sunday finales allow for the play-in games to be held during the week while allowing the playoffs to start on their customary Saturday-Sunday dates.