The NBA schedule is out, here are some highlights


It’s here. The NBA schedule is out.

There are 1,230 NBA regular season games each year total, we’re not going to list them all here. Like you’d read that anyway. Here are a few highlights to check out.

• The season starts Oct. 28 with a double-header on TNT. First Dallas goes to San Antonio and watches the Spurs raise banner No. 5. The second game is the Rockets at the Los Angeles Lakers, with the return of Kobe Bryant. It’s Dwight Howard back in Los Angeles and that’s still a draw (and a lot of boos in LA).

• LeBron James wanted to go home and that’s where he starts — the Cavaliers will open the season Oct. 30 at home hosting the New York Knicks. The Cavs second game is the Bulls on Halloween night.

• Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks open the season with a brutal back-to-back, hosting the return of Derrick Rose to the NBA on the 29th then facing the Cleveland on the 30th. Welcome to coaching in the NBA Derek Fisher.

• Fun opening week game on TNT — Clippers host the Thunder on Thursday night Oct. 30. Also on Oct. 31 the Cavaliers and Bulls face off in what should be the first of four regular season games between the top two teams in the East.

• The Lakers and Clippers play each other for the first time on Oct. 31.

• There is a third game on Oct. 28 not getting nationally broadcast, but it’s the start of the season for Anthony Davis and a real potential playoff team in the Pelicans, opening up at home against the Magic. By the end of the season Davis could be the third best player  in the NBA.

• Christmas Day — the day most casual fans start watching the NBA — will feature five games. LeBron will make his return to Miami that day with a game between the Cavaliers and Heat, one of the ABC marquee games that day. The other ABC game features the Thunder at the Spurs. The day will open with the Wizards traveling to face the Knicks, it also will include Lakers at the Bulls, and it will close out with the Warriors going to Los Angeles to take on the Clippers.

• Both match ups between the defending champion Spurs and LeBron’s Cavaliers will be nationally televised: Nov. 19, on ESPN and March 12, on TNT.

• The battle between Manhattan and Brooklyn starts Nov. 7 when the Knicks travel to the Nets (and bring a lot of their fans with them).

• Kevin Love will make his return to be booed in Minnesota on Jan. 31. But I sure it will be polite booing.

• Andrew Wiggins reportedly will make his NBA debut Oct. 29 when the Timberwolves travel to Memphis to face the Grizzlies.

• The NBA will play two regular season games overseas, both on Nov. 12 — the Rockets and Timberwolves in Mexico City, and the Knicks and Bucks (coached by Jason Kidd) in London.

• Martin Luther King Day will see four games: The Pistons at the Hawks, the Mavericks at the Grizzlies, he Bulls at the Cavaliers in a good one, and finally the Lakers at the Suns.

• The Nets and Raptors had a great playoff series last year, they face off in Toronto on Dec. 17.

• Want to watch LeBron put up a lot of points in Madison Square Garden? Dec. 4 the Cavs travel to the Knicks.

• Pau Gasol, the new Chicago Bull, makes his return to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers Jan. 29.

• On March 31 we get a Finals rematch of last year with the Spurs in Miami. That lacks a little luster now.

• To close out, we have this observation from John Schuhmann of

Cavaliers star LeBron James: Raptors ‘in a better place than we are right now’

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It’s not enough to say the Raptors have the Eastern Conference’s best record.

The Celtics had the East’s best record last year, and most people thought the Cavaliers were better. Cleveland had a better point difference and more star power – LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – than Boston. The Cavs confirmed that notion by cruising past the Celtics in a five-game conference finals.

The Raptors have been the Eastern Conference’s best team this season.

They rank fourth in the NBA in offensive and defensive rating, the only team top five in both categories. Led by DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, their starting lineup has embraced a more dynamic offense with more 3-point shooting and passing. Toronto’s bench is the best in the league.

LeBron, whose Cavaliers host the Raptors tonight, via Joe Vardon of

“They’re in a better place than we are right now because they’ve had more consistency and they’ve had their guys in the lineup for the majority of the year,” James said after the Cavs’ morning workout. “So, they know what they want to accomplish. They know who they are at this point in the season. Obviously, you guys know about us, we’re still trying to figure that out.”

This is so obviously correct. It’s just surprising to see LeBron put it so directly, though it’s unsurprising he’s hanging on the Cavs’ instability to date.

Kevin Love and Isaiah Thomas were injured for long stretches, and Thomas and several others were traded. Coach Tyronn Lue is on a leave of absence.

But the Cavaliers made those major trades because they were struggling, and this new group won’t necessarily simply figure things out with time. Defensive problems persist. Lue’s health is unclear.

LeBron understandably remains confident in himself, even as the Cavs enter the postseason as a middling seed. He’s also setting up a narrative of Cleveland coming from behind if it advances to the NBA Finals. We’ll see whether it happens.

Tonight likely won’t be a referendum, though. Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Kyle Korver and Larry Nance Jr. are out for the Cavaliers. That roster instability still exists.

If LeBron dials up playoff intensity tonight, that could send a warning to Toronto, though I’m not sure it’s necessary. As far ahead as the Raptors are right now, after Cleveland soundly eliminated them the last two years, I think everyone knows it’s a couple months too early to properly assess these teams’ relative places.

Report: Optimism remains for Kawhi Leonard returning this season

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Kawhi Leonard reportedly planned to return for last Thursday’s Spurs-Pelicans game – but didn’t.

A couple games later, and Leonard remains out. Will he actually play again this season?

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Leonard resumed working out in San Antonio on Feb. 27 and is feeling “much better,” according to the source. Eleven games remain in the regular season, but there remains optimism he will return this season, the source said.

Sources told ESPN that Leonard’s target date to return from the quadriceps tendinopathy that has kept him out for all but nine games this season has always been “mid-March.”

It’s March 21. We’re nearing the end of what anyone would consider mid-March.

A month ago, Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich said time was running out for Leonard to return and acclimate to the lineup. But Popovich has sounded more open lately to Leonard – whose own doctors must still clear him – returning whenever the forward is ready.

San Antonio (41-31, tied for fifth in the West) has probably done enough without Leonard to make the playoffs. The Spurs have a 3.0-game buffer over the Nuggets and 3.5-game buffer over the Clippers for playoff position.

But San Antonio would become far more dangerous in the playoffs – a threat to any team, including the Rockets and Warriors – if Leonard returns to full strength.

First, he must just get back on the court at all, and maybe that’ll happen sooner than later. The way this injury has gone, though, it’s hard to believe anything until we see it.

LeBron James on NBA play-in tournament: “No, no, no. That’s wack.”

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It’s a long way off, but there has been some discussion in the league office — and some momentum built up in some corners — for a play-in tournament for the NBA playoffs. While multiple variations of how this would work are in play, it involves some combination of teams seeded seven to 10 in a few single-elimination (or home-and-home) games to see who gets into the 16-team playoffs. The goal is to keep more teams — and more fan bases — engaged in the playoff chase longer.

LeBron James is not a fan. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“No, no, no,” James said Wednesday. “That’s wack. That’s wack. Why? You got to earn your spot to be in the postseason. No consolation for finishing last. That’s corny. That’s corny. That’s wack. To play for what? What are they playing for?”

So, how do you really feel?

“[Make the playoffs by winning the tournament], even if my record is better than yours? Nah, that’s wack,” James said.

As fans, we love drama and unpredictability — it’s what we love about March Madness, the upsets that ruin our bracket — and a play-in tournament would bring some to the often predictable NBA table.

However, LeBron has a point. Using the Western Conference and the current standings as an example, how excited are fans and the front offices of the Jazz and Nuggets going to be about an extra game or two for the right to get smacked down by Houston in the first round? Or for the Timberwolves to maybe be out after a game where they lose to the Clippers in a play-in, rather than getting to take on Golden State? Will this really sell well?

The only way this gets backing of most players and the union is if it could help shorten the season — if television and other revenue from these games allowed the 82 game season to drop to 72 (or whatever) and keep the money the same, then players would listen. However, that much money seems unlikely.

Maybe a mid-season NBA Tournament held in one city could generate the needed revenue to shorten the season. Maybe. But that seems more likely than a play-in.

Kyle Korver to miss Wednesday vs. Toronto after death of his brother

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I can’t imagine what this is like.

Cavaliers’ sharpshooter Kyle Korver will not be with the Cavaliers for an interesting showdown with Toronto on Wednesday night due to the death of his younger brother, Kirk. Korver has been given a leave of absence from the team.

Kirk Korver, 27, played four years of college ball at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

There are four Korver brothers, all of whom played college basketball or at a higher level. Kirk was the youngest of them, he reportedly fell seriously ill about a week ago.

Our thoughts are with the entire Korver family.

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