Tim Duncan and the Spurs will raise a fifth banner in October. (Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE)
After a familiar in-state Texas wrestling match to tip things off, the champion San Antonio Spurs will be living out of their suitcases for much of the first couple of weeks of the new NBA season. That’s just one of the wrinkles in the 2014-15 schedule, released Wednesday.
The 1,230-game marathon includes, for the first time in history, an extended All-Star break. The last games before the break are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 12, and the first ones after the hiatus won’t tip until Thursday, Feb. 19. The 64th NBA All-Star Game will be held Feb. 15 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and a Spurs cast that includes 10 international players will celebrate their title with the traditional banner raising and ring ceremony on Opening Night, Oct. 28, when they host the Dallas Mavericks at the AT&T Center. Also on the schedule that night will be Orlando at New Orleans and Houston at the L.A. Lakers. The Spurs-Mavs and Lakers-Rockets — with the likely return of Kobe Bryant — will be nationally televised by TNT. (Full national TV schedule)
HANG TIME: The 10 (or so) must-see games of 2014-15
Oct. 28, 2014, Orlando at New Orleans, 8 p.m., League Pass
Oct. 28, 2014, Dallas at San Antonio, 8 p.m., TNT
Oct. 28, 2014, Houston at L.A. Lakers, 10:30 p.m., TNT
Once they get through Opening Night, though, the Spurs — who finished with the league’s best road record last season — will be on the road for eight of their next 11 games. Included in that is a four-game blitz through all four California teams, consisting of a pair of back-to-back sets of Clippers-Warrior and Lakers-Kings.
Cleveland fans, ecstatic over the homecoming of LeBron James, will have to contain their excitement for a few days until the Cavaliers make their debut on Oct. 30 at Quicken Loans Arena against the New York Knicks. The Cavaliers will play the next night, too, at Chicago in Derrick Rose’s first home game after missing all but 10 games in the last two seasons because of knee injuries. Rose will be joined in the Bulls lineup by Pau Gasol, who left the Lakers as a free agent over the summer.
The Spurs and Cavaliers will both be headline attractions in the NBA’s annual Christmas Day spectacular that features five different matchups, coast-to-coast. San Antonio will be at home to face last season’s Western Conference finals opponent, Oklahoma City (2 p.m. ET, ABC). James will make his first trip back to Miami, where he won two titles in four years with the Heat, for an afternoon game (5 p.m. ET, ABC) against friends Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat.
Christmas Day (All times listed are ET)
Dec. 25, 2014, Washington at New York, 12 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 25, 2014, Oklahoma City at San Antonio, 2 p.m., ABC
Dec. 25, 2014, Cleveland at Miami, 5 p.m., ABC
Dec. 25, 2014, L.A. Lakers at Chicago, 8 p.m., TNT
Dec. 25, 2014, Golden State at L.A. Clippers, 10:30 p.m., TNT
San Antonio once again will face its annual Rodeo Trip, so named because the Spurs must vacate their arena for an extended stretch for the San Antonio Livestock Show & Rodeo. It’s a nine-game stretch that will keep the Spurs off their home court from Feb. 6 until March 4. It is broken into two legs before and after the All-Star break. But the Spurs aren’t the only team who face long stretches away from home.
The Brooklyn Nets, under new coach Lionel Hollins, will also straddle the break with eight consecutive games away from the Barclays Center. And the longest single road trip of the season belongs to the Clippers, who’ll have an eight-game excursion Jan. 29-Feb. 9 through three different times zones that includes three sets of back-to-backs and ends up against potential playoff challengers at OKC and Dallas. The Clippers will also have to endure a seven-game trip starting Nov. 19 at Orlando that includes three back-to-backs. The Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings also have seven-game road trips.
As part of the NBA’s annual Martin Luther King Day celebration, four games will be nationally televised. The Detroit Pistons will play at Atlanta (2:30 ET, ESPN), followed by the Bulls at Cleveland (8 ET, TNT) and Lakers at Phoenix (10:30 ET, TNT). The Mavericks at Memphis (5 ET) will be shown on NBA TV.
Martin Luther King Day (All times listed are ET)
Jan. 19, 2015, Minnesota at Charlotte, 2 p.m., League Pass
Jan. 19, 2015, Philadelphia at Washington, 2 p.m., League Pass
Jan. 19, 2015, Detroit at Atlanta, 2:30 p.m., ESPN
Jan. 19, 2015, Boston at L.A. Clippers, 3:30 p.m., League Pass
Jan. 19, 2015, Denver at Golden State, 4 p.m., League Pass
Jan. 19, 2015, Dallas at Memphis, 5 p.m., NBA TV
Jan. 19, 2015, Indiana at Houston, 5:30 p.m., League Pass
Jan. 19, 2015, New Orleans at New York, 5:30 p.m., League Pass
Jan. 19, 2015, Toronto at Milwaukee, 8 p.m., League Pass
Jan. 19, 2015, Chicago at Cleveland, 8 p.m., TNT
Jan. 19, 2015, Sacramento at Portland, 10 p.m., League Pass
Jan. 19, 2015, L.A. Lakers at Phoenix, 10:30 p.m., TNT
The NBA Global Game schedule will again include two regular-season games played at international sites. The Timberwolves will face the Rockets at Mexico City Arena on Nov. 12 and the Bucks and Knicks will meet at London’s O2 Arena on Jan. 15.
The teams with the toughest finishes to the season would seem to be Portland, Toronto and Washington. The Blazers wrap up their schedule with three of their last four on the road, including stops at potential playoff contenders Golden State, OKC and Dallas. The Raptors play six of their last eight on the road. The Wizards have five of their last six away, with a finale at Cleveland.
The regular season concludes on April 15. The 2015 NBA playoffs will begin Apr. 18.
The Bulls, Cavaliers and Thunder lead with 25 appearances on TNT, ESPN and ABC national telecasts, followed by the Clippers with 23, the Lakers with 20 and the Spurs and Warriors with 19 apiece.
NBA TV will show every team as part of a 97-game schedule that includes 22 Fan Night Games. Fans will vote on NBA.com each week to determine which games will appear on NBA TV for the Tuesday Fan Night Games.