Maximizing player rest and limiting travel demands were again part of the NBA’s formula for the upcoming regular season, the league indicated Thursday when announcing the schedule for 2023-24.
Teams have an average of 14 instances of back-to-back games this season, up slightly from last year’s rate of 13.3 per team. But back-to-backs involving travel are down to 9.0 on average; the rate of those last season was 9.6 per team.
No team will play the day before or after high-profile national television games, such as Christmas matchups and all ABC weekend matchups. No In-Season Tournament games will be on the second night of a back-to-back, either.
Teams have gotten an 80-game schedule for the coming season for now. The other two games will be based on how they fare in the new tournament that starts Nov. 3.
Denver will commemorate its championship and get a visit from Commissioner Adam Silver on opening night, Oct. 24, when it plays host to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first of 1,230 games this regular season.
The second game of the opening-night doubleheader is Phoenix at Golden State, meaning Chris Paul’s former team will play his new team.
Assuming Paul appears in that game, it’ll be the 1,215th regular-season game and 1,364th game overall of his career — and he’s never come off the bench. The last time Paul didn’t start a game that counted was Dec. 13, 2004, when he was slightly late for the team bus and benched for the first 4 minutes of Wake Forest’s game against Temple.
The debut of No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama comes on the second night of the season, when San Antonio plays host to Dallas on Oct. 25.
Christmas in New York remains an NBA tradition.
The Knicks will play on Dec. 25 for the 56th time, and they will open the traditional Christmas quintupleheader by playing host to the Milwaukee Bucks in the noon slot.
The rest of the Christmas games: Golden State at Denver (2:30 p.m. Eastern), Boston at the Los Angeles Lakers (5 p.m. Eastern), Philadelphia at Miami (8 p.m. Eastern) and Dallas at Phoenix (10:30 p.m. Eastern).
The Lakers’ LeBron James will get another chance to become the Christmas all-time wins leader among players; he’s played in 17 games and his teams have gone 10-7. The only other player with 10 wins on Christmas is newly enshrined Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade, whose teams went 10-3 on the holiday.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra puts his perfect record on the line; he’s 8-0 as a head coach on Dec. 25. Only Jack Ramsay (11-3), Phil Jackson (11-7), Gene Shue (9-4) and Red Auerbach (9-6) have more Christmas wins than Spoelstra.
There are 11 games set for Jan. 15, the annual celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. — including the traditional NBA games on that holiday in Atlanta and Memphis.
San Antonio visits the Hawks that day, while Golden State visits the Grizzlies.
The other games: Houston at Philadelphia, New Orleans at Dallas, Orlando at New York, Detroit at Washington, Chicago at Cleveland, Miami at Brooklyn, Boston at Toronto, Indiana at Utah and Oklahoma City at the Los Angeles Lakers.
NBA Rivals Week returns with 11 nationally televised games across four networks from Jan. 23 through Jan. 27.
— Jan. 23: New York at Brooklyn, LA Lakers at LA Clippers (TNT)
— Jan. 24: Oklahoma City at San Antonio, Phoenix at Dallas (ESPN)
— Jan. 25: Boston at Miami, Sacramento at Golden State (TNT)
— Jan. 26: Dallas at Atlanta, Portland at San Antonio (NBA TV)
— Jan. 27: Miami at New York, Philadelphia at Denver, LA Lakers at Golden State (ABC)
There are no games between Feb. 16 and Feb. 21 because of the All-Star break. This season’s All-Star Game is in Indianapolis. There are two games on Feb. 15, and 12 games when play resumes on Feb. 22.
For the first time, there will be an NBA Finals rematch from the previous season on Feb. 29 — Miami to Denver to celebrate Leap Year this season.
The other leap-year games: Milwaukee at Charlotte, Utah at Orlando, Atlanta at Brooklyn, Golden State at New York, Oklahoma City at San Antonio, Houston at Phoenix and Washington at the Lakers.
For the second consecutive season, no NBA games will be played on Election Day. It falls this year on Nov. 7.
A pair of Sundays — Dec. 3 and Dec. 10 — are also expected to be off days as well, given how the new in-season tournament is being scheduled.
Other off days: Nov. 23 for Thanksgiving, Dec. 24 for Christmas Eve, April 8 for the NCAA men’s Division I basketball championship game and April 13 — the next-to-last day of the regular season.
As previously announced, Atlanta will play Orlando (a Magic home game) in Mexico City on Nov. 9, and Brooklyn will play Cleveland (a Cavaliers home game) in Paris on Jan. 11.
San Antonio will return to Austin, Texas, for two home games again this season, just as it did last season. The Spurs will host Denver there on March 15 and Brooklyn on March 17.
Not only will all 30 teams play at either 1 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. Eastern on the final day of the season, April 14, but this season, all 30 teams will also play on April 12 as well.
The play-in tournament would start April 16, and the 2024 NBA playoffs will begin April 20.
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