NEW YORK • The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced its full 1,230-game schedule for the upcoming season, complete with tweaks designed to reduce wear and tear on players through the grinding 26-week campaign.
The 2017-18 season will be the first season in history in which no team play four games in five days. The average number of back-to- back games has also been reduced to 14.4 per team from 16.3 last year.
The issue of keeping teams fresh during a regular season lasting more than six months gained urgency, as coaches opted to rest stars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry occasionally to be sure they would be ready for deep play-off runs.
The absence of marquee players was felt not only by fans who paid for tickets but also by national broadcasters. ABC and ESPN recently paid US$24 billion (S$32.8 billion) for the right to air some of the league's marquee games.
To make it possible, the league shortened the pre-season, and added about a week to the regular season.
The season tips off on Oct 17 with the reigning champions Golden State Warriors taking on the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers - defeated by the Warriors in last season's Finals - taking on the Boston Celtics in a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The NBA had already revealed its five Christmas Day contests, which include a Warriors-Cavaliers rematch. The two teams, who have clashed in the last three championship series, will meet again on Martin Luther King Jr Day - Jan 15.
Three-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, traded from the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans last season, makes his first return to Sacramento in week two.
Paul George, traded by the Indiana Pacers to Oklahoma City, returns with the Thunder and NBA Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook to take on the Pacers on Dec 13. Chris Paul will be back in Los Angeles to take on his old team the Clippers as a Rocket on Jan 15.
Jimmy Butler, dealt by the Chicago Bulls to the Minnesota Timberwolves in June, returns to Chicago with his new team on Feb 9. In international games already announced, the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets will play in Mexico City on Dec 9 and the Philadelphia 76ers and Celtics will meet in London on Jan 11.