|Thursday, July 18
Lakers open season with Spurs
ESPN.com news services
The league's opening week includes four consecutive days of nationally televised doubleheaders and the expected debut of No. 1 draft pick Yao Ming with the Houston Rockets on Oct. 30.
There will be 14 games Oct. 30, including a televised doubleheader on ESPN with Washington at Toronto and the Lakers at Portland. The games will be the first on ESPN since 1983-84.
ESPN and ESPN2 will combine to carry 76 games. The ESPN networks will feature one game each Wednesday night with a doubleheader every Friday.
The Oct. 31 doubleheader on TNT has Boston at Washington followed by Portland against Sacramento. The four consecutive televised doubleheaders concludes on Friday, Nov. 1 with two games on ESPN, the New York Knicks at Philadelphia followed by Seattle at Golden State.
Houston opens at Indiana on Oct. 30 and then plays Toronto at home on Nov. 2. Yao will face Hakeem Olajuwon, who left the Rockets before the 2001-02 season after 17 years with the team. Yao's first nationally televised appearance comes on Nov. 15 in Phoenix for a game to be shown on ESPN.
Turner Sports, which is televising NBA basketball for the 19th consecutive season, will televise 52 games on TNT, 48 of them as part of Thursday night doubleheaders. For the first time, TNT will air the All-Star Game on Feb. 9 from Atlanta.
Beginning this season, ABC and ESPN enter the first year of a six-year agreement with the NBA. ABC will televise 14 games -- nearly 20 fewer than NBC showed per season under the old NBA TV deal -- beginning with a Christmas Day doubleheader, featuring rematches of the 2002 Conference Finals with Boston visiting New Jersey and Sacramento against the Lakers.