As the NBA gears up for the quickest turnaround in league history next month, a 49-game preseason schedule was announced overnight with some intriguing storylines and matchups to keep an eye on as all 30 teams report for training camp with games coming in December.
There was mixed emotions across the league when the December 22 date for a season-opener was confirmed last month, not least from those who spent extended time in the bubble – LeBron James and new NBA champion Lakers, for example.
However, there also has to be a sense of perspective. Eight teams weren’t invited to the bubble in the first place, while most had left the Orlando bubble by late August or early September.
With that in mind, a three-month break doesn’t seem too brief especially during a pandemic, where they went four months without action. For the Lakers and Miami, perhaps you can understand their frustration – but everyone else has had ample time to rest and recover.
The league’s official press release read:
“Each NBA team will play a minimum of two, a maximum of four games as part of the league’s 49-game preseason schedule – at least one home and road game. The national TV schedule will be announced at a later date.
This upcoming campaign also features a shortened 72-game season, to streamline the playoffs in a way that doesn’t hurt players’ eligibility for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics next summer.
The schedule will be released in two halves, with the first (December 22 – March 4, 2021) released around the time training camps formally begin next Tuesday, December 1. It allows flexibility for any cancellations or unforeseen circumstances caused by the pandemic, doing this in that way.
As per Bleacher Report’s Paul Kasabian, the preseason slate is structured in a way that reduces travelling with the COVID-19 pandemic still looming large across the United States.
There were 164,103 new coronavirus cases and 1,367 deaths across the US yesterday, taking the toll to nearly 13.5m positive cases – four million more than the next highest country, India.
Teams will play pairs of games against each other in the same location, like the Indiana Pacers visiting the Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 12 and facing them again two days afterwards.
As shown by the schedule, most teams are playing division or conference rivals – like the Lakers and Clippers going at it in the Western Conference from their shared Staples Center home.
Storylines and players to look out for
- Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks facing two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, new addition Jrue Holiday and the Bucks on December 12
- The day afterwards, Kevin Durant could make his long-awaited Brooklyn Nets debut at Barclays Center against the Washington Wizards
- December 15, Doc Rivers will coach his first game for the Philadelphia 76ers at home against the Eastern Conference finalists Boston Celtics
- Six-time All-Star guard and former Celtic player Kyrie Irving is poised to lead his Nets teammates to Boston three days later