NBA.com | Feature Story
NBA Season Tips Off on Oct. 29
Opening week features four consecutive nationally televised doubleheaders.
NEW YORK, October 18 -- The three-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers will tip off their mission for a fourth consecutive championship on Tuesday, Oct. 29, when they take on the San Antonio Spurs to begin the opening week of the NBA's 57th season.
The NBA's opening week marks a string of four consecutive days of nationally televised doubleheaders to start the 2002-03 season. Opening night begins on TNT with an Eastern Conference matchup between the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic at TD Waterhouse Centre at 8 p.m. ET followed by the Spurs and Lakers at STAPLES Center at 10:30 p.m ET.
The second night of the season, Oct. 30, features a slate of 14 games including a televised doubleheader on ESPN. The Washington Wizards face the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre at 7 p.m. ET and the Lakers meet the Portland Trail Blazers at Rose Garden at 9:30 p.m ET in ESPN's first televised NBA games since the 1983-84 season.
Thursday, Oct. 31, also presents a doubleheader on TNT with the Boston Celtics visiting the Wizards at MCI Center at 7:30 p.m ET and the Blazers and Sacramento Kings meeting at 10 p.m. ET. The four consecutive days of televised doubleheaders concludes on Friday, Nov. 1, with two games on ESPN. The New York Knicks travel to First Union Center to battle the 76ers at 8 p.m. ET, with the nightcap featuring the Seattle SuperSonics and Golden State Warriors from The Arena in Oakland at 10:30 p.m ET.
The 2002 NBA Finalists, the Lakers and Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Nets, will meet twice during the regular season -- on Dec. 19 in New Jersey on TNT at 7:30 p.m ET and on Jan. 24 in Los Angeles at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
The first pick of the 2002 NBA Draft, Yao Ming, will make his first nationally televised appearance when he leads the Houston Rockets into America West Arena to face the Phoenix Suns on Nov. 15 at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Now that we know what to watch for, let's get into a quick preview of the league's top teams:
EAST: New Jersey, Detroit, Washington, New Orleans
New Jersey Nets
Kenyon Martin, PF: A tough guy rep, but only 5.3 rpg? Go figure
Richard Jefferson, SF: Solid D + good O (9.4 ppg, 46 FG%) = promotion
Dikembe Mutombo, C: Two-season dip in boards, blocks. Hey, he's 36
Kerry Kittles, SG: Healthy at last: 13.4 points, 1.59 steals per game
Jason Kidd, PG: Forget the 39.1% shooting -- he's the league's No.1 PG
Ben Wallace, PF: Count on it: 13 boards a game, two years running
Michael Curry, SF: Brings energy on D, but better off the bench
Zeljko Rebraca, C: Add a point for Robinson, who'll see quality minutes
Richard Hamilton, SG: Second in NBA last year in FT shooting (88.5%)
Chauncey Billups, PG: Should just stick to shooting threes (39.4%)
Kwame Brown (maybe Jared Jeffries), PF: 4.5 ppg lowest for top pick since 1972-73 (LaRue Martin)
Michael Jordan, SF: The GOAT is still kickin'
Brendan Haywood, C: Shares time with coach Patrick Ewing by March
Jerry Stackhouse, SG: Can he co-exist with MJ late in games? With one ball?
Larry Hughes, PG: PG experiment failed miserably in Golden State
New Orleans Hornets
P.J. Brown, PF: Never fancy, always dependable: 8.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg in 2001-02
Jamal Mashburn, SF: Has played 50 games just twice in the past 8 years
Elden Campbell, C: Magloire starts until he recovers from left knee surgery
David Wesley, SG: Shooting percentage dropped to 40% last season
Baron Davis, PG: Yeah, but why can't he shoot free throws (58%)?
WEST: Lakers, San Antonio, Sacramento, Dallas
Los Angeles Lakers
Robert Horry, PF: Always a clutch performer on the big stage
Rick Fox, SF: Wife's a clutch performer on the big stage
Shaquille O'Neal, C: Most dominant player on any stage
Kobe Bryant, SG: 15 pounds of added muscle shows he won't be upstaged
Derek Fisher, PG: 2002 playoffs should have gotten him booted off stage
San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan, PF: Superstar that can do it all, but it would be nice to see him hit a three every now and again
Bruce Bowen, SF: Does dirty work on D and, as a bonus, hits the occasional three
David Robinson, C: The league's class act, from start to finish
Steve Smith, SG: 11.6 ppg was lowest of his career; AWOL in playoffs
Tony Parker, PG: The Statue of Liberty, and now this. Merci, France
Chris Webber, PF: Kings hope his legal troubles won't distract him
Peja Stojakovic, SF: Career highs of 21.2 ppg, 48% FG, 42% 3PT last season
Vlade Divac, C: Three words of advice: Grab the ball!!!
Doug Christie, SG: The Turk lurks: Hedo will push for his job
Mike Bibby, PG: Claims, with a straight face, the Kings can win 70 games
Raef LaFrentz, PF: Has never averaged 8 rebounds in a pro season
Dirk Nowitzki, SF: Could there be more?
Shawn Bradley, C: Size usually matters. Usually, not always
Michael Finley, SG: Detroit took Randolph Childress instead
Steve Nash, PG: 45.5% from three-point range? Are you kidding?