The NBA schedule released Wednesday had something of a reunion tour feel to it for the Lakers and Clippers, each team playing familiar opponents on marquee dates.
The Lakers will open the season against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, Oct. 28, at Staples Center, giving Kobe Bryant a chance to face Dwight Howard for the first time since Howard bolted the Lakers last summer in free agency. The stars weren't exactly best friends in their one season together. As a bonus, point guard Jeremy Lin gets to face his former team in his Lakers debut.
And the Clippers pick up the season where they left off in their final playoff game of 2014, at home against Oklahoma City on Oct. 30. The Thunder defeated the Clippers in six games in the Western Conference semifinals.
Then the Hallway Rivalry resumes on Halloween in a designated Lakers home game. That's a spooky prospect for the Lakers given they have lost seven of their last eight games against the Clippers, including losses by 48, 36 and 23 points last season.
Bryant might not be in a festive mood for the Lakers' Christmas game given that a) it will be in Chicago, marking the first time since 2006 that the Lakers will be on the road that day and b) Pau Gasol will be wearing a Bulls uniform after opting to take less money than the Lakers offered to join a championship contender.
The Clippers will be home for Christmas, playing host that night to the Golden State Warriors in a festering grudge match that has featured a seven-game playoff series (won by the Clippers last spring), flying fists and elbows (resulting in multiple technical fouls for each team) and a pregame chapel service that the teams once refused to share.
The Lakers' abbreviated Grammy trip in the winter will be the equivalent of a two-minute instrumental, including only four games stretched across nine days. The Clippers will accrue significantly more frequent-flier miles, their Grammy trip encompassing eight games and 14 days.
The Clippers will also make a seven-game trip in November. The Lakers' longest trips are five games in March and four each in January and February.
Each team will benefit from an unusually long All-Star break courtesy of new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. The Lakers get eight days off and the Clippers seven, though a handful of players from the teams could participate in the midseason showcase Feb. 15 at Madison Square Garden.
Something else that could help the Lakers in their bid to avoid missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1975-76: They will play only 16 sets of back-to-back games, including two during the season's opening week. The Clippers will play in 19 back-to-backs.
Other notable Lakers home games include the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 14; LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 15; and the return of Derek Fisher as coach of the New York Knicks on March 12. The Clippers will play host to the Spurs on Nov. 10 and Feb. 19 and to Gasol and Chicago on Nov. 17, and the Cavaliers on Jan. 16.
In a sign of the Clippers' increasing popularity, they will play a franchise-record 32 nationally televised games, tied with Oklahoma City for the league lead. The Lakers will play 28 nationally televised games.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times