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NBA schedule features ‘Rivals Week,’ international games and Election Day off

LeBron James and Stephen Curry will renew acquaintances on opening night of the 2022-23 NBA season. (Ashley Landis/AP)

LeBron James will visit Stephen Curry on opening night, the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks will renew their budding rivalry on Christmas, and all 30 NBA teams will get Election Day off as the league seeks to encourage voting.

The NBA officially released its schedule for the 2022-23 season Wednesday, and those developments, plus a new rivalry week and the return of international games, counted among the highlights.

After enjoying a full offseason for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the 2019-20 season, the NBA set a standard 82-game schedule that begins Oct. 18 and concludes April 9, 2023. Following the completion of the regular season, the league will hold its play-in tournaments for the final two playoff seeds in both conferences from April 11 to 14 before the postseason begins April 15.

Curry’s reigning champion Warriors will welcome James and the Los Angeles Lakers to Chase Center for Golden State’s ring ceremony as part of an opening night doubleheader that also features Joel Embiid’s Philadelphia 76ers traveling to TD Garden for a date with Jayson Tatum’s Celtics.

The next night, Ja Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies will host the New York Knicks and the Dallas Mavericks will face the Phoenix Suns in a rematch of their second-round playoff series. On Oct. 20, the 76ers will host Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks and the Lakers will host Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers. Opening week will conclude Oct. 21, with the Celtics facing the Miami Heat in an Eastern Conference finals rematch and the Denver Nuggets playing the Warriors.

Wizards get homey autumn, rough winter in 2022-23 schedule

The Washington Wizards will open the season Oct. 19 against the Pacers in Indiana before facing the Chicago Bulls for their home opener Oct. 21. Washington will face Indiana again Oct. 28 for its national television debut on ESPN, its only appearance of the season on the network. The Wizards will also face the Atlanta Hawks on TNT on Feb. 28.

Building on its advocacy efforts around the 2020 presidential election cycle, the NBA will not hold any games on Tuesday, Nov. 8, in an effort to boost voter participation in the midterm elections. All 30 teams will play Monday, Nov. 7, joining forces for a “Civic Engagement Night” that will provide nonpartisan voting information to fans and viewers.

Two years ago, many NBA owners opened their arenas as polling locations, and high-profile players such as James founded “More Than a Vote” to support Black voters and fight voter suppression. During the 2020 playoffs, held in the Disney World bubble, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association encouraged voting efforts with T-shirts, arena signs and video messages.

“We don’t usually change the schedule for an external event, but voting and election day are obviously unique and incredibly important to our democracy,” NBA social justice coalition executive director James Cadogan said on MSNBC. “Symbols really matter. If we do something that some might call a symbol, I’d say, that’s a good symbol.”

The NBA’s Christmas slate, which will go head-to-head against an NFL triple-header, features five games: 76ers at Knicks at noon Eastern time; James, who on Wednesday signed a two-year extension, and the Lakers at Luka Doncic’s Mavericks at 2:30 p.m.; Bucks at Celtics at 5 p.m.; Grizzlies at Warriors at 8 p.m.; and Suns at Nuggets at 10:30 p.m. The Brooklyn Nets, mired in a standoff with Kevin Durant following his repeated trade requests, were the most notable holiday snub.

In another new addition to the schedule, the NBA will host “Rivals Week” across 11 nationally televised games from Jan. 24 to Jan. 28. “Rivalry” has been defined broadly to include Lakers vs. Celtics, a sibling showdown between Lonzo and LaMelo Ball and a battle between Nikola Jokic and Embiid, last year’s top two MVP finishers. The stretch also will include 2022 playoff rematches between the Celtics and Heat, the Warriors and Grizzlies, the Mavericks and Suns, and the Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves.

After shutting down travel outside the United States and Canada because of the pandemic, the NBA will hold international games for the first time since the 2019-20 season. Mexico City will host the Heat and San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 17, while the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons will play in Paris on Jan. 19.

As part of ongoing efforts aimed at improving player availability, the NBA said teams will play on back-to-back nights an average of 13.3 times, down from 19.3 in the 2014-15 season, and travel a record-low average of 41,000 miles each. To prevent against the possibility of load management for star players, teams playing in the league’s highest-profile showcases — Christmas, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and on ABC’s Saturday and Sunday programming — will be given off days before and after their national television games.

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