HANG TIME, New Jersey — With The Finals, the Draft and most of free agency in the rearview mirror, it’s really time to start getting ready for the 2012-13 NBA season, a return to the standard 82-game schedule.
That schedule, all 1230 games, was revealed Thursday on NBA TV. And, of course, it gets started with a ceremony on Biscayne Bay.
LeBron James will get his ring and the Miami Heat will raise their second championship banner on Tuesday, Oct. 30, on TNT. Then, they’ll open the 2012-13 season by hosting the Boston Celtics, the team that had them down 3-2 in the conference semifinals this past June. This was already a fierce rivalry, and it will only get more interesting with Ray Allen‘s defection to South Beach.
After Celtics-Heat, Dirk Nowitzki and the new-look Dallas Mavericks will visit best buddy Steve Nash and the Los Angeles Lakers, our first chance to see how Kobe Bryant‘s game is affected by Nash’s point guard skills. So TNT’s opening night double-header will include the four teams who’ve won the last five NBA championships.
Top four picks Bradley Beal and Dion Waiters will also make their debuts on opening night in Cleveland. So make sure you’ve got your League Pass hooked up by then.
There are two NBA TV games on Halloween, and that will be our first regular-season look at several other rookies, and many of them have very interesting matchups in their first real NBA action.
No. 1 pick Anthony Davis will face Tim Duncan, while Jonas Valanciunas will make his long-awaited NBA debut against All-Star Roy Hibbert. No. 5 pick Thomas Robinson visits Carlos Boozer and the Bulls, and Summer League MVP Damian Lillard hosts Nash and the Lakers.
Thursday, Nov. 1, brings another big debut, that of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. And what better way to christen the building than with a visit from the team from the other side of the bridge. Knicks-Nets has a chance to become a real rivalry now, and appropriately, the two teams tip off their 2012-13 season against each other on TNT. That game will be followed by a Western Conference Finals rematch, Thunder and Spurs in San Antonio.
ESPN gets into the action on Friday, Nov. 2, with another great double-header. First, the Heat visit New York to meet Melo and the Knicks. Then we get the latest edition of a bitter rivalry between the Clippers and Lakers.
After opening night, the biggest day on the NBA schedule is Christmas. And the league has five more games for us to enjoy after opening our gifts.
Brooklyn hosts its first ever Christmas Day game as the Celtics (always the road on the holiday) visit their new Atlantic Division challenger on ESPN. Then, ABC has a double-header of Knicks-Lakers and Thunder-Heat, the first Finals rematch of the season. And to conclude the five-game slate, we go back to ESPN for Rockets-Bulls and Nuggets-Clippers.
Martin Luther King Day brings us some more afternoon basketball and a solid trio of inter-conference games on national TV. First, we get the Pacers and Grizzlies from Memphis on ESPN. Then, a TNT double-header, with the Spurs visiting Philly and the Lakers invading Chicago.
There are plenty of other games of note, like Allen’s initial return to Boston on Jan. 27 (ABC), Nash’s first game in Phoenix as a Laker on Jan. 30 (ESPN), and Carmelo Anthony‘s long-awaited return to Denver on March 13 (ESPN).
Now, if only we can fast forward to Oct. 30 and get started right away.