The Miami Heat will open their title defense against the Chicago Bulls on Oct. 29 in the expected return of Derrick Rose, with an all-Los Angeles matchup later that night in the Lakers’ first game without Dwight Howard and the Clippers’ first with Doc Rivers.
The NBA’s 2013-14 schedule, released Tuesday, also features a potential LeBron James-Kobe Bryant duel on Christmas in Los Angeles, right after scoring stars Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant match up across the country in New York.
Howard’s first visit to the Lakers since leaving for Houston as a free agent doesn’t come until Feb. 19, giving Bryant plenty of time to get back to full strength from his torn Achilles’ tendon near the end of last season.
The Indiana Pacers host the Orlando Magic in the opening game of the season, about the time the Heat are holding another championship ring ceremony. Then Miami will try to give Rose a rough welcome back in what’s likely to be his first NBA game since tearing his knee in the opening game of the 2012 playoffs.
Most teams open on Oct. 30. Two nights later, the Heat will serve as the opponent for the new-look Brooklyn Nets’ first home game since acquiring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston.
That duo, which helped lead the Celtics to the 2008 NBA championship, will make its emotional return to Boston on Jan. 26. Rivers will coach his first game back there on Dec. 11 – one night after the Celtics see Garnett and Pierce for the first time in Brooklyn. Rivers will then renew acquaintances with his two star players on Dec. 12 at Barclays Center.
Other highlights of the schedule, which was released during an NBA TV special program:
The Heat will host the Spurs on Jan. 26 in their first meeting since they edged San Antonio in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The teams also meet in Texas on March 6.
The marquee Christmas Day schedule features five games: Chicago at Brooklyn, Oklahoma City at New York, Miami at the Lakers, Houston at San Antonio, and the Clippers at Golden State.
No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett could make his NBA debut at home when Cleveland hosts Brooklyn on Oct. 30.
The Nets have a three-game road trip in three different countries from Jan. 11-20. They open at Toronto, travel to London to face the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 16 in the O2 Arena, and then return to New York to visit the rival Knicks in a Dr. Martin Luther King Day matinee.
San Antonio and Minnesota play Dec. 4 in Mexico City.
The regular season ends April 16. The All-Star game is Feb. 16 in New Orleans.