The new NBA schedule is a little bit easier on players.
Fans might be catching a break — and some more sleep — as well.
The league announced its 2019-20 schedule on Monday, featuring another dip in back-to-back games for teams and a significant change in the number of nationally televised games starting at 10:30 p.m. on the East Coast.
Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers will start several games a half-hour earlier than usual, while broadcasters ESPN and Turner are going to earlier start times on many of their midweek doubleheader nights.
Such a change has been on NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s mind for some time, especially since roughly half of the nation’s television homes are in the Eastern time zone — but now, a number of the league’s biggest stars play on the West Coast. It was not uncommon for nationally televised midweek games to end at 1 a.m. Eastern time or even later last season, and that was not good for ratings.
“It’s something that I think we have to address,” Silver said in May.
And changes are definitely coming.
ESPN’s Wednesday doubleheaders — mostly at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Eastern time (5 and 7:30 p.m. Pacific time) last season — will begin at either 7 or 7:30 p.m., followed by a second game at either 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. in the East. TNT had nine Tuesday doubleheaders last season with the second game starting at 10:30; this season that number is down to two, with the second game now mostly starting at 9:30 or 10 p.m.
In all, there were 57 games on national television starting at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time last season. That number falls to 33 this season, a dip of 42 percent.
Meanwhile, players might be getting a touch more rest this season as well. For the fifth straight year, the NBA has found a way to lower the average number of times a team has to play on consecutive days. The league average is 12.4 back-to-backs this season, down from 13.3 last season and 36 percent down from the average of 19.3 five years ago.
Other highlights from the 2019-20 schedule:
Toronto will get its rings on Oct. 22, when it plays host to New Orleans and No. 1 overall draft pick Zion Williamson. The Los Angeles Lakers — now featuring Anthony Davis to play alongside LeBron James — will play the intracity rival Clippers — now featuring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — in the second half of that doubleheader.
Toronto gets to host a Christmas game for the first time, playing host to Boston at 9 a.m. Pacific time. The other Christmas matchups (all times Pacific): Milwaukee at Philadelphia, 11:30 a.m.; Houston at Golden State, 2 p.m.; Clippers at Lakers, 5 p.m.; New Orleans at Denver, 7:30 p.m.
Martin Luther King Day
Fourteen games are scheduled for Jan. 20, the day honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., including the traditional home games for Atlanta (against Toronto) and Memphis (against New Orleans).
Europe in prime time
The schedule features 48 games — 24 on Saturdays, 24 on Sundays — that will air in prime time in Europe. That does not include the Jan. 24 game in Paris between Milwaukee and Charlotte.
The stretches of four games in five days might be gone for good. This will be the third consecutive season in which no team gets tasked with handling such a busy stretch. No team will play eight games in 12 days, either — though there are 19 instances of teams having to play five times in a span of seven days.
The regular season ends with 13 games on April 15. Miami, Detroit, Denver and Utah all finish on April 14. The playoffs start April 18.