THE 75th season of the National Basketball Association (NBA) kicks off this week with the league promising it to be eventful as it celebrates the landmark year.
Action kicks off on Oct. 20 (Manila time) with a twin-bill featuring Giannis Antetoukounmpo and the defending champions Milwaukee Bucks against Eastern Conference powerhouse team Brooklyn Nets at 7:30 a.m. and the retooled Los Angeles Lakers versus Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors at 10 a.m.
The opening games will see off a busy tip-off week that will also have the NBA naming its 75th Anniversary Team, featuring the 75 greatest players of all time.
From Oct. 20 to 22, 25 members of the team, representing a cross section of positions and eras from throughout the NBA’s rich history, will be announced on each of the three days. Members of the team include those already named to the 50 greatest players in 1997. The team is selected by a blue-ribbon panel of media and current and former players, coaches, general managers and team executives.
Also on tap for opening week are games that include those of Filipino-Americans Jalen Green and Jordan Clarkson.
Mr. Green and the Houston Rockets play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Oct. 21 while also playing on the same day are Mr. Clarkson and the Utah Jazz versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Young guns Luka Dončić and Trae Young face off in an early matchup as the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks battle on Oct. 22.
On Oct. 23, among those playing are last year’s losing finalists Phoenix Suns against the Lakers and the Nets versus the redemption-seeking Philadelphia 76ers.
The Christmas games for this season, meanwhile, will have the Hawks against the New York Knicks, a rematch of their emotional first-round matchup last season; the Bucks against the Boston Celtics, the Suns against the Warriors, and the Lakers vs. the Nets.
Just like the previous two seasons, the Play-In Tournament will be in effect.
It is scheduled to take place from April 13 to 15, 2022 after the regular season concludes on April 11 and before the NBA Playoffs 2022 begin on April 17. It will determine the teams that will fill the seventh and eighth playoff seeds in each conference.
The Play-In Tournament will include the teams with the seventh-highest through the 10th-highest winning percentages in each conference. The teams with the seventh-highest and eighth-highest winning percentages in each conference will each have two opportunities to win one game to earn a playoff spot. The teams with the ninth-highest and 10th-highest winning percentages in each conference will each have to win two consecutive games to earn a playoff spot.
Last season, the teams that earned playoff spots by way of the play-in were the Celtics (seventh seed) and Washington Wizards (eighth seed) in the Eastern Conference and the Lakers (seventh seed) and Memphis Grizzlies (eighth seed) in the Western Conference.
The NBA 75th season, too, has some 85 players playing in new locations.
Among them are Russell Westbrook (Washington to Lakers), Kemba Walker (Boston-New York), DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio-Chicago), Jonas Valančiūnas (Memphis-New Orleans), Carmelo Anthony (Portland-Lakers), Lonzo Ball (New Orleans-Chicago), Paul Millsap (Denver-Brooklyn) and PJ Tucker (Milwaukee-Miami).
A number of teams will have new coaches, too, namely Portland (Chauncey Billups), Indiana (Rick Carlisle), New Orleans (Willie Green), Dallas (Jason Kidd), Atlanta Hawks (Nate McMillan), Orlando (Jamahl Mosley), Boston (Ime Udoka) and Washington (Wes Unseld, Jr.).
Milestones to watch out for include the Lakers’ LeBron James supplanting Utah Jazz legend Karl Malone in second place in the all-time scoring list. Mr. James has 35,367 points entering the new season while Mr. Malone ranks second with 36,928 points. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the career leader with 38,387 points.
Another is Golden State’s Curry (2,832) taking the all-time lead in three-pointers made over Ray Allen (2,973).
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, too, is in position to become the winningest coach in the NBA. He is currently at third place with 1,310 wins, behind Don Nelson (1,335) and Lenny Wilkens (1,332)
As per the NBA, the league has established a major international presence with games and programming in 215 countries and territories in more than 50 languages, and merchandise for sale in more than 100,000 stores in 100 countries on six continents.
The 2020-2021 NBA will feature 107 international players from 41 countries on opening-night rosters, including reigning league most valuable player Nikola Jokić of Serbia, marking the seventh consecutive season that opening-night rosters featured at least 100 international players.
The NBA can be seen in the country over free TV on TV5 and One Sports and pay TV through Cignal TV as well as on NBA League Pass, Cignal Play and Smart GigaPlay. League-related content is also available over NBA.com/Philippines. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo