(The Sports Xchange) – The highly anticipated debuts of Chris Paul with the Houston Rockets and Gordon Hayward with the Boston Celtics will highlight the opening night of the NBA season, the league announced Thursday.
Paul and the Rockets will visit the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday Oct. 17 as the second part of a doubleheader on TNT. Paul, a nine-time All-Star point guard, spent the past six seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, while the Warriors will be receiving NBA championship rings for the second time in the past three seasons.
In the opener, Hayward and the Celtics will visit the Cleveland Cavaliers in a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference finals. Hayward joined Boston as a free agent during the summer after seven seasons with the Utah Jazz, including making his first All-Star appearance last season.
Cleveland once again will have LeBron James on the floor but the status of guard Kyrie Irving remains unclear after he asked to be traded.
The NBA also announced its five Christmas Day matchups with an NBA Finals rematch between the Cavaliers and host Warriors on ABC (3 p.m. ET) representing the marquee contest. The two teams have met in each of the past three finals.
MVP Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and MVP runner-up James Harden of the Rockets will square off on ABC (8 p.m. ET) on the Thunder’s homecourt. The other contest on ABC will feature the Washington Wizards visiting the Celtics at 5:30 p.m. ET.
The Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks begin Christmas Day with a noon ET tip at Madison Square Garden on ESPN. The contest is Philadelphia’s first Christmas Day affair since 2001.
Squaring off on Christmas Night (10:30 p.m. ET) will be the Minnesota Timberwolves and host Los Angeles Lakers.
The remainder of the NBA schedule will be announced next week. The Oct. 17 opening, pushed up to give players more rest, is the earliest start since the 1980-81 campaign began on Oct. 10, 1980.