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Key highlights from the 2014-15 NBA schedule

LeBron James' return to Miami on Christmas highlights the 2014-15 NBA schedule, which was officially released Wednesday. A three-game slate highlighted by Spurs-Mavericks rematch opens the year on October 28.

Ty Wright

The 2014-15 NBA schedule is officially out, so it's time to start circling those calendars for the big games that'll take place from the end of October until the end of April. To see each team's schedule, check out NBA.com and your SB Nation team blog.

Here are the big highlights.

CHRISTMAS

The NBA's marquee regular-season day features a five-game slate highlighted by LeBron James' return to Miami for the first time since choosing to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Here's the schedule:

Noon ET, ESPN: Washington Wizards at New York Knicks
2:30 p.m. ET, ABC: Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs
5 p.m. ET, ABC: Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat
8 p.m. ET, TNT: Los Angeles Lakers at Chicago Bulls
10:30 p.m. ET, TNT: Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers

Read more on the Christmas Day slate.

ALL-STAR GAME

The 2015 All-Star Game is being jointly hosted by the Knicks and Nets in New York City. All-Star Saturday night will be at the Barclays Center on Feb. 14, while the actual All-Star Game will be at Madison Square Garden a day later.

But in a new twist, the league will have a much longer All-Star Break. In the past, the All-Star Break lasted for just four days. It's been extended to eight days this year, with some teams having even longer layoffs between games.

OPENING WEEK

The season will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 28 with a TNT doubleheader. First, the Spurs will receive their championship rings, then take on the Dallas Mavericks. The second game pits the Rockets against the Lakers in what should be Kobe Bryant's first game against Dwight Howard since Howard left L.A. (Kobe was injured in all four games last season).

James' Cavaliers, meanwhile, open on Thursday, Oct. 30 on TNT at home against the Knicks. It's a bit odd that the league's marquee player isn't involved on either of the first two games of the season. The Cavaliers were reportedly supposed to open against the Spurs instead of the Mavericks, but a last-minute switch was made.

Here is the opening week schedule. All games on local television only unless otherwise noted:

OCTOBER 28

7 p.m. ET: New Orleans Pelicans at Orlando Magic.
8 p.m. ET (TNT): Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs.
10:30 p.m. ET (TNT): Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers

OCTOBER 29

7 p.m. ET: Milwaukee Bucks at Charlotte Hornets
7 p.m. ET: Philadelphia 76ers at Indiana Pacers
7:30 p.m. ET: Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics
7:30 p.m. ET: Washington Wizards at Miami Heat
7:30 p.m. ET: Atlanta Hawks at Toronto Raptors
8 p.m. ET: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies
8 p.m. ET (ESPN): Chicago Bulls at at New York Knicks
9 p.m. ET: Detroit Pistons at Denver Nuggets
9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz
10 p.m. ET: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns
10 p.m. ET: Golden State Warriors at Sacramento Kings
10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN): Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trail Blazers

OCTOBER 30

7 p.m. ET: Washington Wizards at Orlando Magic
8 p.m. ET: Detroit Pistons at Minnesota Timberwolves
8 p.m. ET (TNT): New York Knicks at Cleveland Cavaliers
8:30 p.m. ET: Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks
10:30 p.m. ET (TNT): Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers

OCTOBER 31

7 p.m.: Memphis Grizzlies at Indiana Pacers
8 p.m. ET (ESPN): Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls
8:30 p.m.: Philadelphia 76ers at Milwaukee Bucks
10 p.m.: San Antonio Spurs at Phoenix Suns
10 p.m.: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Sacramento Kings
10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN): Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers

Here's more on the league's opening week.

OTHER KEY GAMES

Some other games of note:

  • The first LeBron James/Kevin Durant matchup will be on Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. on TNT. It'll be in Oklahoma City
  • The Knicks and Bucks will square off in the annual London game on January 15. The Rockets and Timberwolves will play in Mexico City on November 12.
  • Kevin Love's first game against the Timberwolves in Minnesota is on Jan. 31.
  • James' first game against the Spurs is on Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. on ESPN. The first Heat-Spurs game, which is technically a Finals rematch even without James, is on Feb. 6 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN in San Antonio.
  • Kevin Durant's one game in his home town of D.C. against the Wizards is on Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
  • The first Andrew Wiggins-Jabari Parker matchup will take place when the Timberwolves host the Bucks on Nov. 26.
  • Chandler Parsons' return to Houston is on Nov. 22. Lance Stephenson's return to Indiana is Nov. 16.
  • Jason Kidd's first game against his old Nets club is Nov. 19.

NATIONAL TV GAMES

As usual, the big markets are on national television more, but there are some emerging teams that have gobbled up more appearances than in the past. Here's the exact number for each team. (Note: Does not include NBATV).

CHICAGO: 25 (10 ESPN, 10 TNT, 5 ABC)
CLEVELAND: 25 (10 ESPN, 10 TNT, 5 ABC)
OKLAHOMA CITY: 25 (10 ESPN, 9 TNT, 6 ABC)
LA CLIPPERS: 23 (10 ESPN, 9 TNT, 4 ABC)
LA LAKERS: 20 (9 ESPN, 9 TNT, 2 ABC)
GOLDEN STATE: 19 (9 ESPN, 9 TNT, 1 ABC)
SAN ANTONIO: 19 (10 ESPN, 7 TNT, 2 ABC)
HOUSTON: 17 (9 ESPN, 6 TNT, 2 ABC)
NEW YORK: 16 (9 ESPN, 6 TNT, 1 ABC)
MIAMI: 16 (9 ESPN, 5 TNT, 2 ABC)
PORTLAND: 16 (10 ESPN, 6 TNT)
DALLAS: 11 (7 ESPN, 4 TNT)
PHOENIX: 10 (4 ESPN, 6 TNT)
WASHINGTON: 10 (9 ESPN, 1 TNT)
DENVER: 5 (4 ESPN, 1 TNT)
INDIANA: 5 (3 ESPN, 2 TNT)
BROOKLYN: 4 (2 ESPN, 2 TNT)
TORONTO: 4 (3 ESPN, 1 TNT)
SACRAMENTO: 3 (1 ESPN, 2 TNT)
ATLANTA, CHARLOTTE, DETROIT, NEW ORLEANS, MINNESOTA: 2
BOSTON, MEMPHIS, UTAH: 1
MILWAUKEE, ORLANDO, PHILADELPHIA: 0

Read more on the national TV appearances.

BACK TO BACKS

The extended All-Star Break has an adverse effect: it increases the total number of back to back games. Last year, teams combined to play 535 back-to-back sets. This year, that number is up to 573. Here's how it breaks down:

Detroit Pistons: 22
Denver Nuggets: 21
Atlanta Hawks: 21

Charlotte Hornets: 21
San Antonio Spurs: 21
Philadelphia 76ers: 21
Milwaukee Bucks: 21
New York Knicks: 20
Houston Rockets: 20
New Orleans Pelicans: 20
Memphis Grizzlies: 20
Cleveland Cavaliers: 20
Chicago Bulls: 20
Brooklyn Nets: 19
Minnesota Timberwolves: 19
Portland Trail Blazers: 19
Toronto Raptors: 19
Utah Jazz: 19
Los Angeles Clippers: 19
Golden State Warriors: 19
Phoenix Suns: 18
Boston Celtics: 18
Washington Wizards: 18
Oklahoma City Thunder: 18
Orlando Magic: 17
Indiana Pacers: 17
Dallas Mavericks: 17
Sacramento Kings: 17
Los Angeles Lakers: 16
Miami Heat: 16

Read more on each team's back to backs.