The NBA announced its schedule for 2014-15, but it neglected one pertinent bit of information: How does it work out for LeBron James?
Because the universe is LeBron-centric (sorry, Copernicus!), here are key moments to mark for the season (all times local):
The first game of The Return Home will be Oct. 30 when his Cleveland Cavaliers will host the New York Knicks in an 8 p.m. game on TNT. The Cavs will hit the road for a game the next night against the Chicago Bulls (8 p.m., ESPN), who should have Derrick Rose healthy and have added Pau Gasol to the roster. Then the Cavs head west for games in Portland, Utah and Denver on Nov. 4, 5 and 7.
James will get his first crack at the San Antonio Spurs, the team that beat his Heat in the NBA Finals, in a home game at 7 p.m. Nov. 19 (ESPN). The first meeting with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant comes in an 8 p.m. Dec. 11 game in Oklahoma (TNT).
James’ Other Return, to Miami, comes on Christmas Day, when the Cavs play the Heat, the team with which he won two NBA titles, at 5 p.m. (on ABC) in the third of five games on the Christmas schedule.
There’s no way of knowing just how the Cavs, with a new roster of players and a new coach, will fare in the Eastern Conference, but things figure to get serious in January, when the Bulls play the Cavs in Cleveland on the 19th (at 8 p.m. on TNT) and Oklahoma City comes to Cleveland on Jan. 25 (3 p.m. ABC).
The Los Angeles Clippers are in town on Feb. 5 (8 p.m. TNT) and the Miami Heat follow on Feb. 11 (8 p.m. ESPN). The Cavs head to Chicago for their last game before the All-Star break, at 8 p.m. Feb. 12 (TNT).
In March marquee matchups, the Cavs play the Spurs in San Antonio (at 8 p.m. on TNT on the 12th) and return to Miami (for an 8 p.m. game on ESPN on the 16th). They’ll face the Heat again in a home game April 2 at 8 p.m. (TNT) and the Bulls at home on April 5 (3:30 p.m. ABC).
On the last day of the regular season, the Cavs host the Washington Wizards.
Fans who want to see James in person can expect to pay dearly, especially if they’re entertaining notions of going to the Christmas Day game. From Forbes:
Last season, the two most expensive games in the NBA involved LeBron on the road. The most expensive of these was against the Knicks on February 1st. At an average price of $648, it was $100 more expensive than the Heat versus Lakers game at Staples Center on Christmas Day. Over the course of the last four years, Heat fans have shown a willingness to pay up for big games. Unless the Heat can get back to the NBA Finals without LeBron, his return to Miami will likely be the biggest game of the season in Miami. It will be interesting to see how he’s greeted in Miami, and in addition to the ratio of cheers to boos, the average price for the game will say a lot about what the game means to fans in Miami. If the most expensive game for 2013-14 is the benchmark, Heat fans would need to pay 67% more than they did for the ring ceremony last season to claim title to the most expensive game of the year. Without LeBron, it could be the only title that Heat fans will hold at the end of the upcoming NBA season.