Games To Watch

The new beast of the East will be front and center on ESPN to start the NBA's 2004-05 regular season.

Shaquille O'Neal, who was traded to Miami by the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason, will play his first game with the Heat on ESPN -- Nov. 3 at New Jersey.

ESPN networks will televise 72 regular-season games -- 65 on ESPN and seven on ESPN2. ABC Sports will have 18 games, with five weekends of regional coverage. The NBA released its schedule on Monday.

The defending champion Detroit Pistons tip off the league's 59th season on Nov. 2 when they play the Houston Rockets at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The date will be highlighted by Detroit's ring ceremony as well as Tracy McGrady's regular-season debut with Houston.

ESPN's Nov. 3 doubleheader concludes with the Lakers taking on the Utah Jazz at the Delta Center (10:30 p.m. ET).

The NBA on ESPN Radio's 30-game regular-season schedule debuts with two games during opening week -- Rockets-Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers -Heat on Nov. 4. The NBA on ESPN Radio also will carry all of the events from the 2005 All-Star Game in Denver.

ABC Sports will broadcast the NBA Finals, which start on June 9, for the third straight season. This season, ESPN will be the exclusive network for the West finals, with the East finals airing on TNT.

The best of the batch this season, as ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein sees it:

Nov. 2, Opening Night

  • Three good games to tip off the season: Houston at Detroit, Sacramento at Dallas, Denver at L.A. Lakers.

    Nov. 3, Miami at New Jersey; Washington at Memphis

  • Shaq plays his first meaningful game with the Heat, on ESPN; the Grizzlies play host to the Wizards in their first regular-season game at the new FedEx Forum.

    Nov. 4, Washington at Charlotte

  • Charlotte resident Antawn Jamison leads the Wizards against the Bobcats as the NBA's 30th team plays its first-ever game.

    Nov. 13, L.A. Lakers at Houston

  • New Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich is a Rockets opponent for the first time in his life.

    Nov. 16, Phoenix at Dallas

  • Steve Nash makes his first appearance at the American Airlines Center since bolting to the Suns in free agency.

    Nov. 25, Happy Thanksgiving

  • A double helping of NBA for your holiday: Minnesota at Indiana, followed by New Jersey at L.A. Clippers.

    Nov. 26, Sacramento at L.A. Lakers

  • Vlade Divac confronts his old Kings teammates for the first time, before the Lakers visit Arco Arena on Dec. 16.

    Nov. 26, Miami at Detroit

  • The reigning champs play host to the East's new beast: Shaquille O'Neal.

    Dec. 25, Detroit at Indiana

  • ESPN's lunchtime offering on Christmas reunites the East's top two teams from last season.

    Dec. 25, Miami at L.A. Lakers

  • Big Surprise: The Big Reunion -- Shaq vs. Kobe -- is a Christmas Day special at Staples Center on ABC.

    Jan. 20, Houston at Orlando

  • Tracy McGrady returns to his hometown for the first time as a member of the Rockets.

    Jan. 21, Indiana at Miami

  • The O'Neal Bowl: Jermaine vs. Shaq, in the first of four regular-season meetings as Eastern Conference rivals.

    Jan. 24, Orlando at Houston

  • Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley visit Houston for the first time as Magic teammates in a Houston-Orlando rematch.

    Feb. 10, L.A. Lakers at Detroit

  • This is the first of two NBA Finals rematches, with the Pistons traveling to Los Angeles on Feb. 25.

    Feb. 13, Denver at New Jersey

  • Kenyon Martin makes his only visit of the season to the Meadowlands after leaving the Nets for the Nuggets.

    March 15, Utah at Cleveland

  • Call for extra security: Carlos Boozer returns to Cleveland for the first time since his controversial move to the Jazz.

    March 17, L.A. Lakers at Miami

  • Your St. Patrick's Day celebration will undoubtedly include the second Shaq vs. Kobe showdown, this one on the Heat's floor.