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NBA releases schedule: Kawhi in Toronto Dec. 11

The 2019-20 NBA schedule was unveiled on Monday, and with summer player movement scattering stars across the league to new teams, return games will feature prominently throughout the season.

Kawhi Leonard will make his return to Toronto on Dec. 11 as the LA Clippers visit the defending champion Raptors. New Celtics guard Kemba Walker returns to Charlotte on Nov. 7 and Jazz guard Mike Conley is back in Memphis on Nov. 15.

On Nov. 27, Lakers big man Anthony Davis returns to New Orleans and Nets guard Kyrie Irving is in Boston.

Clippers forward Paul George returns to Oklahoma City on Dec. 22. Rockets guard Russell Westbrook will make his return to Oklahoma City on Jan. 9, though the Rockets face the Thunder in Houston on Oct. 28, their third game of the season.

The 2019-20 season opens on Oct. 22 with a doubleheader featuring the Pelicans visiting the Raptors on ring night, and the Lakers visiting the Clippers in the first installment of the new battle for Los Angeles.

The Lakers lead the way in national TV appearances with 31 (ABC, ESPN and TNT), winning the first matchup with the Clippers who clock in with 26. The Warriors have the second-most with 30, the Rockets will appear 26 times, Celtics 25 times, while the Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers make 24 appearances each. Zion Williamson and the Pelicans will make 20 national TV appearances.

The league’s marquee Christmas Day games will feature five games, with the Celtics visiting the Raptors at noon (all times ET), the Bucks at the 76ers at 2:30 p.m., the Rockets at the Warriors at 5 p.m., the Clippers at the Lakers at 8 p.m. and the Pelicans at the Nuggets at 10:30 p.m.

A primary focus for schedule-makers this season was to move up East Coast start times for national TV doubleheaders. The overall number of 10:30 p.m. ET starts on national TV was reduced from 57 to 33, with the Warriors playing only 11 times at 10:30 p.m. (down from 18 last season) and the Lakers only 10 times (down from 19).

For a fifth consecutive season, back-to-backs are at a historic low, with teams averaging 12.4 this season, down from 13.3 last season. Since the 2014-15 season, back-to-backs are down 36 percent overall. The range of back-to-backs per team is between 11 and 14 (it was 12 to 15 last season). For a third straight season, there will be no four-in-five night games for any team and no eight games in 12 nights for a second consecutive season.

The All-Star break will begin Feb. 14 with the 2020 All-Star game on Feb. 16 in Chicago. The league will be on a break with no games from Feb. 14-19. Every team will have at least seven days off.

The schedule also features a record 48 primetime games for Europe (afternoon start times in North America, primetime for European time zones), and the first-ever slate of Saturday primetime games for Europe.

The regular season concludes on April 15 with 26 of the 30 teams in action that night.

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