The NBA schedule is a little bit easier on players.
Fans might be catching a break – and some more sleep – as well.
The league announced its 2019-20 schedule Monday, featuring another dip in back-to-back games for teams and a major change in the number of nationally televised games starting at 10:30 p.m. on the East Coast. Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers will start several games a half-hour earlier than usual, while broadcasters ESPN and Turner are going to earlier start times on many of their midweek doubleheader nights.
The change has been on NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's mind for a while, especially since roughly half of the nation's television homes are in the Eastern time zone.
ESPN's Wednesday doubleheaders – mostly at 8 and 10:30 p.m. last season – will begin at either 7 or 7:30 p.m., followed by a second game at either 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. in the East. TNT had nine Tuesday doubleheaders last season with the second game starting at 10:30; this season that number is down to two, with the second game now mostly starting at 9:30 or 10 p.m.
In all, there were 57 games on national television starting at 10:30 p.m. last season. That number falls to 33 this season, a dip of 42%.
Meanwhile, players might be getting a touch more rest this season as well. For the fifth straight year, the NBA has found a way to lower the average number of times a team has to play on consecutive days. The league average is 12.4 back-to-backs this season, down from 13.3 last year and 36 percent down from the average of 19.3 five years ago.
Other highlights from the 2019-20 schedule:
Toronto will get its rings Oct. 22, when it plays host to New Orleans and No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson. The Lakers – now featuring Anthony Davis to play alongside LeBron James – will play at the Clippers – now featuring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Toronto gets to host a Christmas game for the first time, playing host to Boston. The other Christmas matchups: Milwaukee at Philadelphia; Houston at Golden State; Clippers at Lakers; New Orleans at Denver.
Martin Luther King Day
There are 14 games scheduled for Jan. 20, the day honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., including the traditional home games for Atlanta (against Toronto) and Memphis (against New Orleans).
The stretches of four games in five days might be gone for good. This will be the third consecutive season where no team gets tasked with handling one of those stretches. No team will play eight games in 12 days, either – though there are 19 instances of teams having to play five times in a span of seven days.
Pacers open season against Pistons
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Pacers will open the season in Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Oct. 23 against their Central Division rival, the Detroit Pistons, the NBA announced Monday.
The Pacers, coming off two straight 48-win seasons, will take a new-look lineup into the season with summer acquisitions Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, T.J. Warren, T.J. McConnell, Justin Holiday and draft pick Goga Bitadze. They join returnees two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo (expected back at some point this season from a knee injury) Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, Doug McDermott, T.J. Leaf, Edmond Sumner, Aaron Holiday and Alize Johnson.
After the home opener, the Pacers take a three-game road trip to Cleveland, Detroit and Brooklyn before returning to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to play to host Cleveland, Nov. 1.
Key home dates in the schedule include: two visits from NBA Champion Toronto (Dec. 23, Feb. 7); Eastern Conference rivals Boston (Dec. 11, March 10); Milwaukee (Nov. 16, Feb. 12); and Philadelphia (New Year's Eve, Jan. 13). Western Conference visits include the Los Angeles Clippers (Dec. 9) and Los Angeles Lakers (Dec. 17) in town just eight days apart; Denver (Jan. 2); New Orleans (Feb. 8); Golden State (March 18) and Houston (March 27).
The Pacers are scheduled for six national television appearances, five on ESPN (Feb. 7 vs. Toronto, Feb. 12 vs. Milwaukee, at Milwaukee March 4, vs. Golden State, March 18, at Boston, April 8) and one game on TNT, Feb. 27 vs. Portland. They will also be on NBATV for six games: Nov. 30 at Philadelphia; Dec. 17 vs. L.A. Lakers; Dec. 23 vs. Toronto; Jan. 24 at Golden State; Jan. 26 at Portland; and March 30 at L.A. Clippers.
– Journal Gazette