NEW YORK, July 5 – Shaquille O'Neal's debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers and top draft pick Blake Griffin's NBA debut against the Los Angeles Lakers mark the opening night of the 2009-2010 NBA schedule announced on Tuesday.The season will begin on October 27 when the Cavaliers, sparked by NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James and his new superstar center teammate "Shaq", play host to the 2008 NBA champions Boston Celtics.
The Lakers, who captured their 15th NBA crown in June, face the Los Angeles Clippers in the opening night’s other game. Griffin will try to spark the lowly Clippers against superstar guard Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
Orlando, which beat Boston in the Eastern Conference semi-finals and Cleveland in the East final before losing to the Lakers in the championship series, begin the season on October 28 at home against Philadelphia.
The night also finds the New Orleans Hornets at San Antonio and Utah at Denver.
The Magic and Lakers will meet for the first time since the final when Orlando travels to Los Angeles for a January 18 matchup. The rematch will be March 7 at Orlando.
Christmas will again feature high-profile NBA games, the biggest featuring the Cavaliers at the Lakers as O’Neal returns to face the team he lead to three NBA titles while the sport’s top guards, Bryant and James, face each other.
Boston will travel to Orlando on December 25 in another holiday special. Other Christmas games find Miami at New York, Denver at Portland and the Clippers at Phoenix.
Other key games send Miami playmaker Dwyane Wade up against Bryant at the Lakers on December 4 and the Celtics and Lakers meeting on January 31 in Boston and February 18 in Los Angeles.
The NBA All-Star Game will be played on February 14 – St Valentines Day – at the new retractable roof stadium of the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys.