NBA Teams
Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer 64d

NBA schedule released, including key free agents' first visits to old teams

NBA, Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers

Jimmy Butler and Gordon Hayward will have to wait until 2018 to return to their old stomping grounds, but Paul George will see the Pacers before Christmas.

The NBA released its schedule Monday, and the ESPN and ABC television schedules include Butler's return to Chicago, Hayward's reunion with Utah and George's first trip to Indiana after all three stars moved during the offseason.

George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder after he made it clear that he would not re-sign with the Pacers when he becomes a free agent next summer. George and MVP teammate Russell Westbrook will visit the Pacers on Dec. 13 in a game that will air on ESPN.

Chicago and Utah will have to wait longer to welcome back their former stars. It will be one big former Bulls reunion on ESPN in Chicago on Feb. 9 when Butler, Taj Gibson and coach Tom Thibodeau face the Bulls. Chicago traded Butler and the 16th overall pick (Justin Patton) to Minnesota for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the No. 7 overall pick (Lauri Markkanen).

Jazz fans will see Hayward, who signed with the Boston Celtics, on March 28 in a game on ESPN.

Chris Paul will be back in Los Angeles to visit his former team, the Clippers, for the first time as a member of the Houston Rockets on Jan. 15.

Excluding the opening-week and Christmas games that were revealed last week, here are some other notable matchups that were revealed for next season:

  • On Oct. 26, New Orleans Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins gets his wish to return to Sacramento and play against his former team. Cousins has been looking forward to this game since he was traded by the Kings on All-Star Sunday.

  • The Rockets play the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 1 (ESPN). If Carmelo Anthony is still in New York, he will face the team that he was willing to waive his no-trade clause for, only to see the Knicks hold out for a better deal.

  • The Brooklyn Nets visit the Lakers in D'Angelo Russell's return to Los Angeles on Nov. 3. The Lakers traded Russell to Brooklyn -- in a deal involving Brook Lopez -- to make room for Lonzo Ball.

  • Joel Embiid will face Ball for the first time when the Philadelphia 76ers visit the Lakers on Nov. 15 (ESPN). Embiid and LaVar Ball, Lonzo's outspoken father, traded social media jabs during the summer. Also, No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz faces Ball, the No. 2 pick, for the first time in the NBA.

  • The Lakers are on ESPN 11 times this season, including on Nov. 22 when they visit the Sacramento Kings for a budding rivalry showdown between Ball and fifth overall pick De'Aaron Fox. Fox was disappointed when Ball was held out of a highly anticipated showdown at the Las Vegas Summer League in July.

  • On Jan. 3, the Thunder visit the Lakers (ESPN). Considering that George made it no secret that he originally wanted to become a Laker before being traded, this game will have plenty of buzz. The Lakers and Magic Johnson are gearing toward a big free-agency summer in 2018. George will be a free agent, and Westbrook could be too if he opts not to sign a supermax extension. Both are from Southern California.

  • The second of two regular-season matchups between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will be played Jan. 15 in Cleveland. The first game is set for Christmas Day.

  • On Jan. 20, the Thunder visit the Cavaliers in an ABC game.

  • On March 11, LeBron James makes his annual trip to play the Lakers in Los Angeles (ESPN). There will be plenty of hype surrounding James' future and the possibility of him becoming a Laker next summer. James can opt out of his contract after this season, and he has been the subject of speculation with the Lakers preparing for their big superstar shopping spree.

For the first time in league history, the schedule does not have any team playing four games in five nights. This is part of the NBA's effort to cut down on injuries and reduce the number of games in which teams rest healthy players.

Back-to-back slates also have been reduced to an average of 14.4 per team, down from 16.3 per team last season. No team has more than 16 back-to-backs this season.

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