Suns fans who have seen quite enough of the San Antonio Spurs might not like the highlights of Phoenix’s 2008-09 schedule.
Phoenix not only opens the regular season in San Antonio — against the Spurs team that ended their season for the third time in the last four years last April — but the Grinches will be at US Airways Center for a Christmas Day matinee, Phoenix’s first home game on Christmas since 1996.
The Suns-Spurs season opener is the first half ESPN doubleheader – with the Lakers and Clippers featured in the nightcap. It’s the first of 10 Phoenix appearances on ESPN with five with more slated for ABC (including the Christmas Day game at 12:30 p.m.) as part of 25 national television appearances, the maximum allowed by the NBA.
TNT will handle the other 10 Suns national games, and will also broadcast the Oct. 11 outdoor preseason game at Indian Wells, Calif., against Denver.
The Suns have 19 sets of back-to-back games — two more than last year and the most in recent memory — but play an incredibly balance schedule from a travel standpoint.
Phoenix has two games in October (one home, one road), 16 in November (eight home, eight road), 12 in December (six home, six road), 15 in January (eight on the road, seven at home), 13 in February (seven home, six road), 16 in March (eight home, eight road) and eight in April (four home, four road).
Suns president Rick Welts said the team was delighted with the schedule and couldn’t have drawn it up much better themselves. “It’s a lot of luck and not much else,” Welts said. “When the league asked us to submit Christmas Day as an available date, we figured we’d be playing … but being home is much preferable to being on the road like we were last year (at Los Angeles Lakers).
Every Suns game will be available in high definition for a second straight season. There are 41 games on KUTP (Channel 45) and 29 games on Fox Sports Arizona, with the remainder of the games available on network TV.
The opener in San Antonio is the start of a tough week for new Suns coach Terry Porter. The New Orleans Hornets will be waiting for them at home the next night (Oct. 30, TNT), the only Phoenix appearance by Chris Paul and company all year. Then two nights later on Nov. 1, the Portland Trail Blazers are in Phoenix – featuring first-round pick and Vegas Summer League sensation Jerryd Bayless in his first hometown visit.
The NBA All-Star weekend is also in Phoenix this year (Feb. 13-15), with All-Star Saturday on Valentines Day (TNT) and the All-Sar game on Feb. 15 (ABC).
The Suns play only three games against four Western Conference foes — Denver and Houston (only one road game) and New Orleans and Minnesota (only one home game).
Home games of specific interest include:
- The Lakers make the first of two visits to Phoenix on Nov. 20 (a TNT games) and also come to Phoenix for a ABC Sunday afternoon game on March 1.
- Shawn Marion plays his first game in Phoenix in a visiting uniform when the Miami Heat come to the Valley on Nov. 28. It’s also the first meeting between Shaquille O'Neal and his former team since the trade last February.
- Former coach Mike D’Antoni returns with his New York Knicks on Dec. 15.
- Rookie coach Vinny Del Negro and Rookie of the Year candidate Derrick Rose (the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft) lead the Chicago Bulls to town on Jan. 31.
- The defending champion Boston Celtics make their only appearance in a Sunday matinee on Feb. 22 on ABC.
The Suns will make 15 appearances on ESPN/ABC this season. Only the defending champion Celtics (16 times) will be seen more, with the runner-up Los Angeles Lakers, Spurs and Suns all making 15 appearances and the Dallas Mavericks making 14 appearances.
2008-09 REGULAR SEASON
|Wed.||29||at San Antonio||5:00||ESPN|
|Tue.||4||at New Jersey||5:30|
|Tue.||25||at Oklahoma City||6:00|
|Wed.||10||at LA LAKERS||8:30||ESPN|
|Mon.||29||at Oklahoma City||6:00|
|Sun.||11||at LA Clippers||1:30|
|Sun.||18||at Toronto||10:30 a.m.|
|Wed.||21||at New York||5:30|
|Wed.||4||at Golden State||8:30|
|13-15||NBA All-Star Weekend - Phoenix|
|Wed.||18||at LA Clippers||8:30|
|Thu.||26||at LA Lakers||8:30||TNT|
|Sun.||8||at San Antonio||12:30||ABC|
|Sun.||15||at Golden State||6:00||ESPN|
|Wed.||8||at New Orleans||5:00|