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Durant visits Warriors Feb. 13; NBA sets partial 2020-21 sked

Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets will visit the Golden State Warriors, the team he led to two titles, on February 13 as part of the NBA first-half schedule.

The league announced its first days of season-opening showdowns December 22-25 on Wednesday, then followed up with the early portion of a lineup of 37 or 38 games per club through March 4, 2021.

Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry during the NBA All-Star game on February 17, 2019*

The NBA will announce the remainder of the schedule of 72 games per club (March 11-May 16) during the latter part of the first half, allowing for potential Covid-19 postponements as it attempts to play in home arenas, mostly without spectators at the start, rather than the bubble used to complete last season.

Among the notable contests from the two months of the campaign revealed Friday will be Durant’s return to the Bay Area, having signed with the Nets as a free agent last year following a torn Achilles tendon suffered in the NBA Finals.

Durant was the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player for the Warriors in 2017 and 2018 when they beat the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in the championship series.

The Nets will host the Warriors on December 22 in the first game of the 2020-21 campaign.

Washington’s Russell Westbrook will face his former Houston Rockets teammates in Texas on January 26 while Houston visits the US capital on February 15.

The powerhouse Milwaukee Bucks, featuring Giannis Antetokounmpo, will visit Brooklyn on January 18, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday that also sees Phoenix at Memphis and the Warriors at the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando at New York and Minnesota at Atlanta.

Teams will face each conference rival three times and each foe from the opposite conference twice during the season. Teams will play between 17 and 20 home games in the first half of the season, with 558 of 1,080 games announced Friday.

The NBA used a “series” model to reduce travel and related Covid-19 issues, so clubs which play a foe twice in the same city likely do so consecutively.

The Lakers will visit Boston on January 30 and entertain Miami in a rematch of last season’s NBA Finals on February 20.

Other notable games find Boston at New Orleans on February 21, the Los Angeles Clippers at Milwaukee on February 28.

The NBA playoffs will be staged from May 22 through July 22 next year.

LAKERS READY

Anthony Davis vows the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers will be ready for the grind of another campaign despite a short turnaround between their pre-season opener and capturing the crown.

After finishing off Miami in the NBA Finals on October 11 after a Covid-19 pandemic-extended season, the Lakers face the Los Angeles Clippers next Friday to launch the pre-season, with about six weeks less rest than usual.

“It’s hard in a quick turnaround to play at a high level to compete for a title again but I think we have the players and staff to do so,” Davis said Friday in an internet news conference.

“As a champion, you’re going to get everyone’s best shot. You have a target on your back. You’re going to find that motivation.

“We have a bunch of new guys who want to win a championship. I think we’ll be fine in that sense.”

The 27-year-old power forward signed a five-year deal worth $190 million to remain with the Lakers, who also inked superstar LeBron James – who turns 36 on December 30 – to a two-year extension worth $85 million that keeps him in LA through the 2022-23 campaign.

“I was excited for him. It’s a hell of a deal,” Davis said. “To be getting that type of money going into your 18th year (in the NBA), it just doesn’t happen.

“I’m happy to be playing along with him for three years and I’m not sure he’s going to be done after that.”

Davis, a member of the 2012 US Olympic team, has been nagged by ankle, shoulder and knee injuries over eight NBA campaigns, seven with New Orleans before joining the Lakers last year, so he and James might see limited early action.

The Lakers have added such talent as Germany’s Dennis Schroder and Spain’s Marc Gasol to revamp the supporting cast for Davis and James this season, particularly on the defensive side. “I think we added great defensive players. It’s going to help our team tremendously,” Davis said. “We’re going to be great defensively this year… That’s why we’re going to repeat.”*AFP

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