With the NBA already in the midst of a lockout and the 2011-12 season imperiled, there was little excitement when the league announced its 2011-12 schedule on July 19, 2011.
A year later, after the owners and players came to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement that not only salvaged a 66-game season but also ensured at least six seasons of labor peace, NBA fans can glance at the 2012-13 schedule — released Thursday, July 26 — with far more anticipation.
The schedule tips off on Tuesday, October 30 with three games, the highlight of which will be the NBA champion Miami Heat raising their second banner before hosting the Boston Celtics in a rematch of June’s classic seven-game Eastern Conference Finals. The budding Celtics-Heat rivalry got even (pardon the pun) hotter when the NBA’s all-time leading 3-point shooter, Ray Allen, left the Celtics as a free agent to sign a one-year deal with the Heat. Allen will return to Boston with the Heat when the two teams battle at TD Garden Sunday, January 27.
November opens with the debut of the Brooklyn Nets, who, after 35 years in New Jersey, will become the first major professional team to call the borough home since the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958. The Nets will host their new intracity rivals, the New York Knicks, in the regular season opener for both teams on Thursday, November 1 at the Barclays Center. Amongst the Nets’ eight home games in November are dates with popular gate attractions such as the Celtics, the Orlando Magic (presuming disgruntled star Dwight Howard is still with the team), and Los Angeles Clippers.
The first day of November will also mark the resumption of the rivalry between the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. The Thunder beat the Spurs in six games in the Western Conference finals last season.
The Nets will open the NBA’s five-game Christmas Day slate by hosting the Celtics at noon. Christmas Day has become the NBA’s showcase regular season day the last several seasons (including last year, when the schedule opened on Christmas) and the league will again feature many of its marquee attractions throughout the afternoon and evening.
The most enticing matchup is the NBA Finals rematch between the host Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder at 5:30 p.m. Other Christmas Day games include the Knicks at Los Angeles Lakers, the Houston Rockets (and Jeremy Lin) at the Chicago Bulls (who were the top seed in the Eastern Conference last year but lost in the first round after star point guard Derrick Rose tore up his knee), and the Denver Nuggets at the Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers and Clippers games, both at Staples Center
The Heat and Thunder will play in Oklahoma City on February 14 while the Knicks will host the Lakers on December 13. The two games in the NBA’s other cross-country rivalry — Celtics-Lakers — will also take place within the same month when the Celtics host the Lakers on February 7 before heading to Staples Center for the rematch February 20.
Other notable games to watch include the debut of Anthony Davis, the top pick in June’s NBA Draft, with the New Orleans Hornets on October 31 and LeBron James’ return to Cleveland as an NBA champion on March 20. The NBA All-Star Game is scheduled to take place in Houston on February 17.
Teams play divisional rivals four times apiece (two home, two away) and every team in the other conference twice apiece (one home, one away). Teams play six of their 10 non-divisional conference foes four times and the other four teams in their conference three times .