NBA season to tip off with champion Nuggets hosting Lakers

ByTim Bontemps ESPN logo
Thursday, August 17, 2023

The 2023-24 season will tip off in Denver, where the defending champion Nuggets will raise a banner to the rafters of Ball Arena for the first time in team history before playing the Los Angeles Lakers.

The league released its schedule for next season on a special episode of ESPN's "NBA Today" on Thursday afternoon.

Denver's title defense will begin Tuesday, Oct. 24, against the team it vanquished in the Western Conference finals. In what will be the 21st season of LeBron James' legendary career, the Lakers hope to return to the Finals for the first time since winning the title in 2020.

That game, as opposed to an Eastern Conference matchup as is typically the case, opens the schedule because the NBA has another massive rivalry contest following it. The new-look Phoenix Suns, showcasing Bradley Beal alongside Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, will visit the Golden State Warriors and Chris Paul, whose first game for his new team will be against his former one.

The 100 games spread across ABC and ESPN this regular season will begin Oct. 25, when the Boston Celtics visit Madison Square Garden to face the New York Knicks. That will be followed by French phenom Victor Wembanyama making his NBA debut at home for the San Antonio Spurs against fellow European sensation Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.

On Oct. 26, the Philadelphia 76ers will open their season on TNT under new coach Nick Nurse -- and with the possibility of the James Harden situation still hanging over the franchise -- at the Milwaukee Bucks. New Bucks coach Adrian Griffin, Nurse's former assistant, will make his head-coaching debut after taking over for Mike Budenholzer this summer.

That game will be followed by another Suns blockbuster, as Phoenix will head downstate to face the Lakers at Arena in what, remarkably, could be the first game James and Durant play against one another since Christmas Day 2018.

Two more playoff rematches await Oct. 27 on ESPN, when the Miami Heat travel to Boston -- where they ended the Celtics' season, and a chance at history, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals this spring. In the second game, the Warriors travel to Sacramento to face the Kings in their first game at the Golden 1 Center since Golden State ended their epic first-round series in Game 7.

The nationally televised games across the opening week will wrap up Oct. 28, when the Knicks visit Zion Williamson and the Pelicans on NBA TV. That will be followed by the Utah Jazz going to Phoenix, where Beal will make his home debut.

Christmas Day will again bring five games, all of which will be aired on ABC or ESPN. The slate begins with the Bucks at the Knicks (noon ET, ESPN), followed by Golden State at Denver (2:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN) and Boston at the Lakers (5 p.m., ABC/ESPN). Then in prime time the 76ers are at the Heat (8 p.m., ESPN), followed by Dallas at Phoenix (10:30 p.m., ESPN), with Kyrie Irving going head-to-head with former Brooklyn running mate Kevin Durant.

There will be four nationally televised games on Martin Luther King Day: Houston at Philadelphia (1 p.m., NBA TV); San Antonio at Atlanta (3:30 p.m., TNT); Golden State at Memphis(6 p.m., TNT); and Oklahoma City at the Lakers (10:30 p.m., NBA TV).

The following week, the NBA will feature "Rivals Week," with 11 nationally televised games: Knicks-Nets and Lakers-Clippers on TNT on Jan. 23; Thunder-Spurs and Suns-Mavericks on ESPN on Jan. 24; Celtics-Heat and Kings-Warriors on TNT on Jan. 25; Mavericks-Hawks and Trail Blazers-Spurs on NBA TV on Jan. 26; and Heat-Knicks, 76ers-Nuggets and Lakers-Warriors on Jan. 27 on ABC.

Those games will kick off a stretch of seven weekends from late January through mid-March when ABC will air games on Saturday, and in several cases, Sunday, featuring high-profile matchups from across the league. That will include five Warriors games, part of a Golden State schedule that includes a league-high 29 games on ABC, ESPN or TNT. Five other teams have at least 20 games on those networks: the Lakers (28), Celtics (25), Suns (25), Nuggets (22) and Knicks (20).

Wembanyama will have 11 nationally televised games -- including three of San Antonio's four group stage games in the in-season tournament -- during his rookie campaign.

Eight teams -- the Pacers, Magic, Raptors, Wizards, Pistons, Hornets, Trail Blazers and Rockets -- will have only one nationally televised game.

And while Paul's reunion game will be out of the way on opening night, there are a few other notable ones to pay attention to this season. On Dec. 15,Dillon Brooks will return to Memphis for the first time since leaving as a free agent this summer. A week later, Jordan Poole -- who was on the other side of the Paul trade -- will return to Golden State.

There will be another pair of reunion games in February, with Marcus Smart returning to Boston on Sunday, Feb. 4 (ESPN), followed by Fred VanVleet returning to Torontofor the first time since leaving as a free agent this past summer.

There's also another potential reunion game in late February, when the Trail Blazers host the Heat in Portland's lone nationally televised game. Blazers star Damian Lillard requested a trade last month and would prefer to be dealt to Miami.

The NBA's schedule accounts for only 80 games for each team, as opposed to the standard 82. The remaining two games will be decided by how the inaugural in-season tournament, which begins in November, plays out. The NBA announced the group stage schedule for the in-season tournament in another "NBA Today" special Tuesday.

The league said teams will average 14 back-to-backs this season, including a record low of nine involving travel for one of the games. Overall, back-to-backs are up slightly from last season (13.3) because of the in-season tournament, but none of those tournament games will come on the second night of a back-to-back.

There are no instances of four games in five nights on the schedule, which teams had fought to eliminate. No games will be held on Election Day as well.

Related Video