New NBA season kicks off Oct. 27

In a replay of sorts of last year's opener, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics will launch the 2009-10 NBA season -- only this time LeBron James has some welcome firepower in new teammate Shaquille O'Neal.

The league on Tuesday released its schedule, which begins with Shaq's Cleveland debut on the Cavs' home floor on Oct. 27. On the back end of that TNT Tuesday doubleheader, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers will receive their championship rings prior to facing the Clippers.

Washington plays Dallas and Houston meets Portland to round out the opening night schedule (which is considered a two-date affair). The rest of the league debuts in a 10-game schedule on Wednesday the 28th, which includes an ESPN doubleheader of New Orleans versus San Antonio followed by Utah versus Denver.

Also on the Oct. 28 docket: defending Eastern Conference champion Orlando, with Vince Carter now aboard, hosting Philadelphia; the Cavs playing the second night of a back-to-back, in Toronto; the Celtics also getting the early back-to-back treatment as they host Charlotte; and the Pistons deciding whether it'll be Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton or Ben Gordon coming off the bench as they open at Memphis.

ESPN once again will carry a schedule predominantly of Wednesday and Friday games during the regular season.

Other schedule highlights include a Nov. 6 game between the Cavs and Knicks in New York (ESPN). It will be LeBron's first appearance at what Knicks fans hope will be his future home since he had a triple-double last February, which was later rescinded.

On Thanksgiving night, Orlando's Dwight Howard is back in his hometown of Atlanta to play the Hawks, and the Bulls visit Utah on the next-to-last stop of their annual early-season Ringling Bros. road trip in which they will not play any home games between Nov. 14 and Dec. 2.

Among many so-called alumni games, newly minted Piston Gordon plays at Chicago on Dec. 2; Toronto's Hedo Turkoglu returns to Orlando on Dec. 16 for his first game against his old team; and O'Neal comes calling to Phoenix on Dec. 21.

For the second straight year, the NBA serves up a five-game feast on Christmas Day -- Heat-Knicks at noon (ESPN), followed by Celtics-Magic and LeBron-Kobe-Shaq (or Cavs versus Lakers) on ABC, and Clippers-Suns and Nuggets-Trail Blazers the nightcap doubleheader on ESPN.

It will be the fourth time in the five years since their partnership ended that Bryant and O'Neal will meet on Christmas. O'Neal was traded to Cleveland in June; James succeeded Bryant as MVP last season.

On the day of Super Bowl XLIV, Eastern Conference heavies Orlando and the Celtics meet on Boston's home court (Feb. 7, ABC).

One week later, the All-Star Game will play out in the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium, with a record crowd for an NBA game expected to attend. Commissioner David Stern's annual league address is the night before, as is LeBron's promised dunk contest debut.

Information from ESPN.com NBA writer Chris Sheridan and The Associated Press was used in this report.