The NBA schedule is out, here are some highlights

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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 NBA.com.

Russell Westbrook fined $10,000 for confrontation with Gobert, no suspension

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The rule in the NBA is clear and strictly enforced (just ask Amar’e Stoudemire and the Suns): Leave the bench during an altercation and you get suspended for a game.

Monday night, in the fourth quarter of the chippy game Monday where the Jazz beat the Thunder, Russell Westbrook was set to check into the game when there was a little dust-up between Rudy Gobert in Raymond Felton, and Westbrook came in and escalated it. Did he leave the bench, or was he coming into the game and that’s different.

The NBA decided he was coming into the game already — Westbrook got a $10,000 fine and an after-the-fact technical, but no suspension.

OKC needs Westbrook — and an aggressive Westbrook who is knocking down his midrange shot — to have a chance to avoid elimination in Game 5 Wednesday. The Thunder have had their strengths turned against them, and have not shown the versatility to adjust in this series, and if Westbrook and company cannot change that Wednesday their season will end.

Nets hire Pablo Prigioni as assistant coach, Tiago Splitter as scout

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired former NBA player and Argentine guard Pablo Prigioni as an assistant coach.

The Nets also announced Tuesday that former Spurs center Tiago Splitter was hired as a pro scout.

Prigioni spent most of his professional career in Spain and won a bronze medal with Argentina in the 2008 Olympics before coming to the New York Knicks in 2012 as a 35-year-old rookie. He spent four years in the NBA with the Knicks, Rockets and Clippers.

Splitter helped San Antonio win the 2014 NBA championship before spending the final two seasons of his seven-year career with Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Nets said Splitter, who also played for Brazil’s national team, will have added duties related to player on-court development.

 

Celtics to get Marcus Smart back for Game 5 Tuesday

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It’s a series that has hinged on defense — Boston has played it well for the majority of five games, bottling up Milwaukee in the halfcourt. The Bucks only played it with real energy at home (and only for about six of the eight quarters the last two games) but when they do they have overwhelmed the Celtics, then converted turnovers and missed shots into transition and early clock opportunities the other way.

For Game 5 Tuesday night, Boston gets its best perimeter defender back — Marcus Smart. He has been out since before the playoffs following thumb surgery last March.

Stevens, via NBC Sports Boston:

“He hasn’t played in six weeks, so it’s hard to say how much (time he will get) but will certainly play,” Stevens said. Stevens said there would not be a minutes restriction on him, but added that the fourth-year guard wasn’t going to play 35 minutes.

Smart is a very good perimeter defender who is very physical and usually assigned to the other team’s best guard (or wing, depending upon the matchup). When Smart was on the court this season, the Celtics allowed less than a point per possession and were 3.6 points per 100 better defensively than when he sat.

Smart likely will get time against Eric Bledsoe and Kris Middleton of the Bucks. Just his presence brings needed depth to the Celtics in what is a critical Game 5 in a series tied 2-2.

Report: Pelicans have discussed offering DeMarcus Cousins less than max over two to three years

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Last month, Anthony Davis said he heard DeMarcus Cousins planned to re-sign with the Pelicans. Cousins was out a torn Achilles, and New Orleans was rolling with Davis playing more center. But New Orleans’ ceiling looked higher with Cousins, and Davis made clear he wanted to keep Cousins – in itself a big deal. More important than keeping Cousins is keeping Davis, which requires keeping Davis happy.

Then, the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers, becoming the lowest seed to sweep a first-round series.

Is everyone still sure Cousins warrants a max contract, which projects to be worth about $176 million over five years?

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The Pelicans have broached internally the idea of offering Cousins a two- or three-year deal at less than the max, per sources familiar with the discussions. I would not expect that to go over well with Cousins’ camp. But the Pelicans have the dual leverage of winning without Cousins and a tepid market for him.

Only a half-dozen or so teams have max-level space this season, and most won’t pursue Cousins at that level, sources say.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pelicans leaked this to test the waters. Word will get back to Cousins, and they can gauge how strenuously he objects. If they want, they can deny ever considering this and try to avoid offending Cousins.

But New Orleans has leverage.

It will be a tight market. Many of the teams with significant cap space are young and rebuilding, and they won’t want Cousins’ attitude. Even teams ready to win might not bring him into the locker room. Returning from a torn Achilles – hard for any player – will be especially difficult for the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins.

That said, Cousins has leverage on the Pelicans, too. He’s extremely talented, and players that talented are hard to come by. New Orleans would still essentially be capped out if he walked, left with only the mid-level exception to replace him. Cousins and Davis play well together, and Davis – who can become an unrestricted free agent in 2020 – wants Cousins around.

Confronted with a similar situation with Jrue Holiday last summer – capped out and no mechanism to adequately replace him – the Pelicans spent big. But Holiday wasn’t hurt and didn’t have any fit concerns with Davis.

For New Orleans, it’s clearly worth securing the 27-year-old Cousins for the next couple years. The upside is too high. But, especially given the injury, guaranteeing him money into his 30s is undesirable.

On the flip side, Cousins should want long-term security. This might be his last chance to get it.

So, maybe both the Pelicans and Cousins can meet in the middle. But finding that point is never simple.