The NBA released its schedule Wednesday, featuring the always-anticipated five-game Christmas Day lineup andDeAndre Jordan's Los Angeles Clippers making a November appearance at theDallas Mavericks-- the team Jordan spurned in free agency to dramatic effect.
Christmas' offerings start with the New Orleans Pelicans visiting the Heat at noon ET, one of the 13 times young star Anthony Davis is scheduled to be shown on national television as he moves more into the spotlight.
That game is followed by the Chicago Bulls at the Oklahoma City Thunder. The centerpiece game of the day is an NBA Finals rematch with the Cleveland Cavaliers visiting the defending champion Golden State Warriors at 5 p.m. ET. The late games are the San Antonio Spurs at the Houston Rockets and the Clippers at the Los Angeles Lakers.
Nov. 11 promises to be intriguing. In the first game of an ESPN doubleheader, Jordan plays with the Clippers at Dallas. In the nightcap,LaMarcus Aldridgereturns to Portland with the Spurs.
The season tips off on Oct. 27 with two playoff rematches: the Bulls host the Cavs, followed by the Warriors getting their rings before playing the Pelicans.
It is part of a loaded first week of nationally televised games. Other matchups in the first few days of the season include Kevin Durant's expected return from injury for the Thunder, who host the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 28, followed that night by Kobe Bryant's expected return when the Los Angeles Lakers host the Minnesota Timberwolves in No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns' first game.
Also in the first few days of the season, the Clippers host the Dallas Mavericks in what could be called the first "DeAndre Jordan game" on Oct. 29, and the Cavs play their home opener Oct. 30, when LeBron James' team hosts the Miami Heat.
The new Saturday night package on ABC starts on Jan. 23 with the Bulls visiting the Cavs. There's an effort to make Saturday a big basketball night with numerous high-profile matchups, including Cavs-Spurs, Warriors-Clippers and Warriors-Thunder, as it becomes a feature on the schedule from late-January onward.
While creating TV-friendly matchups is a staple of the schedule every year, the NBA has started implementing some changes this year. There was an effort to reduce the difficult four-games-in-five-nights sets and the number of back-to-backs. It is one of the measures the league has implemented and is experimenting with as it attempts to provide players with more rest.
There are only 27 cases of a team playing four games in five nights, down 61 percent from last season. The amount of back-to-backs have gone from about 20 per team on average last season to 18 this season. Back-to-backs that cross a time zone have been reduced 18 percent.
"Our focus was really on players' rest and recuperation," said Kiki VanDeWeghe, the NBA's senior vice president of operations. "We've worked hard with the teams, the broadcast partner and the venues to get the overall travel down and more time between games."
Though the season is not being extended, the back-to-backs were reduced because TNT agreed to give up exclusivity on Thursday nights and more teams can now play that night. Also, ABC agreed not to have exclusivity on Saturday nights. This enabled the All-Star break to remain a week long, a change to the schedule that increased back-to-backs last season.
There has also been an effort by the league to reduce the amount of miles teams fly. This includes teams playing both Los Angeles and New York teams on the same road trip. Also back on schedules more frequently is the old Texas Triangle, where teams will play in all three Texas cities on the same trip in a return to a relic from years ago.
Here's a list of some of the other intriguing games and notes:
-- The Cavs and Warriors play the maximum number of national television games on ESPN, ABC and TNT allowed: 25 each. The Clippers and Thunder are on 24 times each.
-- The Knicks have seen their national television games cut from 16 last season to just seven this season, fewer thanthe Atlanta Hawks, who play eight. New York and Brooklyn, which is on national television just once, have been removed from the Christmas Day schedule.
-- The Milwaukee Bucks open at home against the New York Knicks on Oct. 28. It is the first time the Bucks have opened the season at home since 1984. Previously, the team requested its home opener be on a weekend, and the season always starts midweek.
-- The James-Durant matchups are scheduled for Dec. 17 in Cleveland and Feb. 21 in OKC.
-- The final James-Bryant game, if this turns out to be Bryant's last season, could be March 10 in Los Angeles. The Lakers remain a big draw and are scheduled for 19 national television slots.
-- After Christmas, the second Cavs-Warriors game is set for Jan. 18 in Cleveland.
-- Deron Williams makes his return to Brooklyn with the Mavericks on Dec. 23.
-- The Spurs don't play a home game from Feb. 6 to March 2 as part of their eight-game rodeo road trip that includes three back-to-backs.
-- The Clippers' and Lakers' "Grammy" road trips are shorter this season, just four games each, because it falls around the All-Star break. But the Lakers play eight games in just 12 days on a road trip in December.
-- The Nets go on a nine-game road trip and have 21 days between home games in February and March because of the circus and college basketball commitments at Barclays Center.
-- The Warriors play 15 of 24 games on the road over the first six weeks of the season, culminating in a seven-game road trip in December. After a six-game road trip following the All-Star break, the Warriors play 17 of their final 24 games at home.
-- The Heat play 11 of 12 games on the road during a stretch in January.
-- The Phoenix Suns will spend only one night on the road in February, in Los Angeles; 10 of their 11 games will be played at home.
-- The Knicks go 14 days between home games in March, when Madison Square Garden will be used for college basketball.
-- The Pistons have a nine-game homestand in March and April, going 18 days between road trips.
-- Weekend early-afternoon games have been a tradition in Toronto and a pitfall for visiting teams. This year, the Raptors have no weekend early afternoon games on their schedule.
-- The Hornets go 21 days between home games and 14 days between road games at different times.
-- The Thunder play only one home game in April, playing five of their final six games of the season on the road.
-- The Sacramento Kings' final scheduled home game at Sleep Train Arena is against the Thunder on April 9.