LeBron James and defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers will face city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers on the opening night of the 2020-21 NBA season.
The NBA announced its national TV schedule for the first three days of the season, with the Lakers-Clippers showdown part of a December 22 doubleheader.
The Lakers ended their 10-year wait for a title after topping the Miami Heat at Walt Disney World Resort amid the coronavirus pandemic, though this season is set to be played in a non-bubble environment.
James – who has agreed a two-year, $85million contract extension with the Lakers – became the first player in NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL history to win the Finals MVP award for three different teams, having also been crowned Most Valuable Player with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Heat, as he celebrated a fourth championship.
Kevin Durant is set to make his long-awaited debut for the Brooklyn Nets in a mouth-watering opening-night reunion with the Golden State Warriors, where he won two championships and as many Finals MVP awards.
Durant left the Warriors via free agency ahead of the 2019-20 season but he missed last term as he recovered from an Achilles injury, while Steph Curry and Golden State will be without Klay Thompson due to a ruptured Achilles, having suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the 2019 Finals.
December 23 will see reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Milwaukee Bucks face the Boston Celtics, while the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns go head-to-head.
Christmas Day will feature five games as NBA Finals participants the Miami Heat play the New Orleans Pelicans, the Lakers meet Luka Doncic's Mavericks, the Bucks do battle with the Warriors, first-year head coach Steve Nash and the Nets go up against the Celtics, while the Clippers will seek some sort of revenge against the Denver Nuggets.
The Clippers squandered a commanding lead in the Western Conference semi-finals as the Nuggets became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series twice in the same postseason.
But a lot has changed for the Clippers, who parted ways with Doc Rivers and turned to championship-winning coach Tyronn Lue to deliver a maiden title to the franchise.