The league released its 2003-04 schedule Tuesday, also giving
defending champion San Antonio a marquee spot on the first night of
the season. The Spurs play the Phoenix Suns that night after the
Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers tip off the season's first game.
Kobe Bryant, charged with felony sexual assault in Eagle, Colo., will
be allowed to play for the Lakers even if the charges against him have not been resolved.
Of the Lakers' 16 games in November, nine will come against
Eastern Conference teams. Bryant's first game in Denver is scheduled for Jan. 7.
The schedule also includes a Dec. 25 tripleheader beginning with
rookie LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers playing at Orlando
in an afternoon game. A night-time doubleheader includes the
Mavericks facing the Sacramento Kings and the Lakers playing the
James, the most-hyped player to make the jump directly from high
school to the pros, will open his season with three road games -- at
Sacramento, Phoenix and Portland.
An NBA Finals rematch between the Spurs and New Jersey Nets will
come two weeks into the season when the teams play at the
Meadowlands. Their second meeting is Jan. 21.
Karl Malone, who signed a free-agent deal with the Lakers after
spending his first 18 seasons with the Jazz, will return to Utah
for the first time Jan. 24. He'll face his old team in Los Angeles
on Dec. 7.
Another veteran signed by the Lakers, Gary Payton, will play at
the home of his first NBA team, the Seattle SuperSonics, on Jan. 2.
He didn't face the SuperSonics after Seattle traded him to
Milwaukee during last season.
San Antonio forward Robert Horry will face his former team, the
Lakers, on Nov. 6 when Los Angeles is at the Spurs.
Ex-Knick Latrell Sprewell will return to New York for a preseason game in October, then do it again in a game that counts
Dec. 23. Keith Van Horn of the Knicks will face his former team, the 76ers, on Nov. 22.
Alonzo Mourning of New Jersey will return to Miami for the first time on Jan. 23.
Sacramento center Brad Miller will not return to Indiana to face
the Pacers until March 19, while Gilbert Arenas of Washington won't
travel back to the Bay Area to face his former team, the Golden State Warriors, until March 26.