NBA releases schedule; Lakers-Heat play Dec. 25

Updated: August 1, 2006, 11:35 PM ET news services

Pro hoops fans will have something to celebrate during the holidays this season.

Marc Stein's take
Marc Stein's Marc Stein has picked his must-see games for the 2006-07 season.

• To see what games he's circled on his calendar, click here.

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The NBA released its 2006-07 schedule Tuesday, and while there aren't any games on Thanksgiving, Halloween and Christmas Day both feature high-profile matchups.

On opening night, which falls on Oct. 31 this season, the Lakers and Bulls will both try to avenge their first-round playoff losses to the Suns and Heat, respectively. Ben Wallace, who signed with Chicago during the offseason, will have added incentive in that game -- Miami also eliminated his former team, the Pistons, in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Wallace returns to Detroit for the first time on Feb. 25.

The Heat are also in a grudge match on Dec. 25, with Shaquille O'Neal facing off against former teammate Kobe Bryant, ex-coach Phil Jackson and the Lakers, the third straight year the two teams have played on Christmas Day.

The first full day of games comes on Nov. 1 and will feature the Clippers at Phoenix. The Suns needed seven games to oust the improved Clippers in last season's Western Conference semifinals.

The following night, rivals San Antonio and Dallas meet for the first time since they also went seven games in the same round. The Mavericks beat the Spurs on the road in overtime to win that series on the way to their first NBA Finals appearance.

The displaced Hornets will play their home opener in New Orleans on Nov. 5, and a second one two nights later in their adopted home of Oklahoma City.

They temporarily relocated from New Orleans to Oklahoma City before last season following Hurricane Katrina.

Five other games are scheduled in New Orleans -- Dec. 14 against San Antonio, Dec. 16 against Dallas, Jan. 26 against Sacramento, Feb. 23 against Seattle and March 23 against the Los Angeles Lakers. The remaining 35 home games, plus any home playoff games, will be played at Oklahoma City's Ford Center.

And on Jan. 20, Detroit plays the Sacramento Kings in what could be Ron Artest's first game at The Palace since the 2004 brawl between Indiana Pacers players and Pistons fans.

The Sonics, meanwhile, could be playing their final season in Seattle. Clay Bennett, whose Oklahoma City business group bought the team last month, has set a 12-month deadline to reach an arena agreement with local government officials. After that, he would gain a contractual option to move the team to Oklahoma City.

For the rest of the regular-season schedule, click here.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.