Shaq visits N.J. before 'reunion' at Staples

Updated: August 3, 2004, 1:27 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The NBA is giving Kobe, Shaq and the fans quite a present.

The former Los Angeles Lakers teammates will face each other for the first time as opponents Dec. 25, when O'Neal's Miami Heat face Bryant's Lakers at Staples Center.

The matchup between Bryant and O'Neal will be televised by ABC and is the highlight of the league's schedule, which was released Monday. They teamed to win three NBA championships for the Lakers but parted on contentious terms when O'Neal was dealt to the Heat in a blockbuster trade following a loss to Detroit in the NBA Finals.

O'Neal's first game with the Heat will be Nov. 3 at New Jersey on ESPN, with his home debut against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers the next night on TNT.

The season tips off with the new-look Houston Rockets, who added Tracy McGrady to Yao Ming, facing the champion Pistons on Nov. 2 on TNT.

Another early marquee matchup comes Nov. 4, when Minnesota and reigning league MVP Kevin Garnett take on the Denver Nuggets and rising star Carmelo Anthony in a rematch of a first-round playoff series last season.

The Heat, thanks to the addition of O'Neal, have a major TV presence with a total of 24 games on ABC, ESPN or TNT -- and an additional nine on NBA TV.

The Lakers also have 24 games on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or TNT, with an additional nine on NBA TV. The Lakers' lone trip to Miami this season, March 17, will be on TNT.

Houston also has 24 games on the ABC, ESPN and TNT networks, and nine others on NBA TV. Teams may have up to 33 games shown nationally under league rules.

The NBA is also featuring for the first time a weeklong series of games between regional opponents, division rivals and historic playoff matchups that it's billing as "Rivalry Week." Matchups included in the games from Feb. 22 to March 2 include Houston at San Antonio, the Lakers at the Pistons, Philadelphia at New York, and Boston at the Lakers.

ESPN will televise 65 regular-season games, with ESPN2 airing seven more. TNT will show 52 regular-season games, while ABC has 18 games scheduled.

NBA TV will televise 96 regular-season games. ABC will air the NBA Finals for the third straight season.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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