The Heat’s first season of LAL (Life After LeBron) includes a LeBron James visit on Christmas, less national TV exposure than the franchise is accustomed and unfortunate news for transplanted Knicks fans living in South Florida.
As expected, James’ Cavaliers will play the Heat at 5 p.m. Dec. 25 at AmericanAirlines Arena, their first regular-season meeting since James announced in July that he was returning to Cleveland. The teams, who meet in a preseason game in Brazil, also play March 16 in Miami (ESPN) and twice in Cleveland: Feb. 11 (ESPN) and April 2 (TNT).
The first Heat-Cavaliers game will be one of only two Heat telecasts on ABC this season, down from five last year. ABC also will air Miami’s Jan. 25 game at Chicago.
The Heat’s total number of national TV appearances among TNT, ESPN and ABC plummeted from 25 to 16.
TNT originally was scheduled to carry the Heat’s opener, against visiting Washington, on Oct. 30, but the league changed that at the last minute, opting to schedule Cleveland’s opener against the Knicks that night and moving the Heat-Wizards opener a day earlier, with no national TV. It will be the third consecutive season that Miami has opened at home.
Knicks fans living in South Florida will not be happy with this development: The Knicks play only once in Miami, on Feb. 9.
As is always the case, the Heat plays four games against most Eastern Conference opponents but only three games against four of them. This season, the Knicks and Detroit make only one visit to American-Airlines Arena, and the Heat plays just once at Chicago and Toronto. Miami plays every Western Conference team twice.
The league decided that every team will be off at least a week during the All-Star break, and the Heat’s break will be longer than that, with Miami playing at Cleveland on Feb. 11 and not again until visiting the Knicks on Feb. 20.
Other schedule details:
• The Heat plays nine of its first 15 and four of its last five games at home and also has a seven-game home-stand from Dec. 17 to Dec. 29, which will be followed by a stretch in which Miami plays 15 of 21 on the road.
• The Heat and Dolphins play home games twice on the same day: Nov. 2 and Dec. 21. The Heat plays Toronto and Boston, respectively, at 6 p.m. both days, meaning there would be direct conflicts only if the NFL switches the Dolphins’ games against San Diego or Minnesota from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
There are no conflicts between Heat and UM football home games and seven conflicts between Heat and Panthers home games.
• All 82 games again will be televised in South Florida.
• Besides Christmas, the Heat plays two other games on holidays, both at Indiana: New Year’s Eve (3 p.m.) and Easter (6 p.m.).
• The Heat has set 16 sets of back-to-back games, one fewer than last season.
• The Christmas game, the Heat’s 10th on that holiday over the past 11 years, will be the only Miami home game that tips off before 6 p.m.
Partial season-ticket packages, covering between 10 and 20 games of the purchaser’s choice, are already on sale, with all games available.
Games are placed in four categories, with prices at $15, $30, $55 and $100. Fans also can purchase tickets from Heat season-ticket holders through www.nba.com/heat/tickets.
FIVE NOTABLE HEAT GAMES
• Oct. 29: Regular-season opener against Washington, one of the Heat’s formidable challengers in the Southeast Division.
• Dec. 25: Cleveland visits in what will be the Heat’s most highly anticipated and most-watched game of the season.
• Feb. 6: Heat visits San Antonio in their first meeting since the Finals, with ESPN televising. The Spurs make their only South Florida appearance on March 31.
• Feb. 9: The Knicks’ only appearance at AA Arena this season.
• Feb. 11: Heat closes the first half of the season with its first game in Cleveland since James bolted.