Russell Westbrook (L) will make his regular-season debut for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday in Los Angeles. Photo by Caroline Brehman/EPA-EFE
MIAMI, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks will host the Brooklyn Nets to tip off the 2021-22 NBA season Tuesday in Milwaukee. LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers will host the Golden State Warriors in Tuesday's nightcap.
The reigning champion Bucks face the Nets at 7:30 p.m. EDT. The Lakers battle the Warriors at 10 p.m. Both games will air on TNT. Bucks players will receive their championship rings Tuesday at a pregame ceremony.
"We don't want to stay stagnant and be the same," Bucks guard Jrue Holiday told reporters Sunday. "There are teams out there getting better, adding new people and figuring things out. ... Knowing we have more firepower is something we can grow on."
The NBA's other 26 teams start their seasons Wednesday and Thursday. Each team will play a full 82-game schedule for the first time since 2018-19. Schedules for the past two seasons were reduced due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This season also marks the return of cross-border travel for games in Canada. The Toronto Raptors, who played home games in Tampa, Fla., last season, will host teams at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, starting Wednesday.
The 2022 NBA All-Star Game is Feb. 20 in Cleveland. The regular season ends April 10 and a play-in tournament runs from April 12-15. The playoffs start April 16 and the NBA Finals start June 2.
"I think we built our chemistry as the [preseason] games went on," Lakers star LeBron James told reporters Friday.
"We are starting to learn each other. We tried to learn each other every quarter. That's the thing we built."
National Basketball Players Association Michele Roberts told reporters earlier this month that about 95% of the NBA's 450 players are vaccinated.
Nets All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving is among the league's nearly two dozen unvaccinated players. Nets general manager Sean Marks announced last week that Irving can't play or practice with the team due to his vaccination status.
He can return to the team if he complies with New York City's vaccine mandate, which states that anyone entering an indoor gym must have received at least one COVID-19 shot. The mandate includes Brooklyn's Barclays Center and Manhattan's Madison Square Garden.
Irving stands to lose more than $16 million salary.
"When you lose somebody like Kyrie Irving, it's hard to figure out where you are going to get that production from," Nets forward Kevin Durant told reporters Thursday.
"Over time, we will start to figure out which guys are going to step up and fill that void of those minutes, shots and opportunities. I think we will do it as a collective."
Warriors players also must be vaccinated to participate in games this season at Chase Center due to a similar mandate in San Francisco. Visiting players in New York and San Francisco are not required to comply with the mandates to participate in games at the arenas.
All NBA teams will allow full capacity at their arenas this season. Most teams will require fans to wear masks except when they are eating or drinking. About half of the NBA's 30 teams require fans to be vaccinated or provide a negative COVID-19 test result to attend games.
The NBA announced a league-wide rule last month that requires fans, who sit within 15 feet of the court, to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result.
Top matchups, odds
The Bucks and Lakers are favored in their season openers. The Nets, Lakers, Bucks and Warriors also are among the favorites to win the NBA Finals. The Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets also are Top 10 title favorites.
Two games will air Wednesday on ESPN on the second day of NBA season openers. The Knicks will host the Boston Celtics at 7:30 p.m. EDT at Madison Square Garden. The Suns will host the Nuggets at 10 p.m. at the Footprint Center in Phoenix.
TNT will broadcast another two games Thursday. The Atlanta Hawks will host the Dallas Mavericks at 7:30 p.m. EDT at State Farm Arena. The Warriors will host the Clippers at 10 p.m. at Chase Center.
The NBA's weekend schedule features 10 games Friday, eight Saturday and six Sunday.
Mavericks guard Luka Doncic is the favorite for the NBA MVP Award. 76ers center Joel Embiid, Nets forward Kevin Durant, Bucks center Giannis Antetokounmpo and Warriors guard Stephen Curry are among the Top 5 contenders for the honor.
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, Lakers forward LeBron James, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Hawks guard Trae Young and Suns guard Devin Booker are among the other players with MVP odds.
NBA Openers (in EDT)
Nets at Bucks at 7:30 p.m. on TNT
Warriors at Lakers at 10 p.m. on TNT
Pacers at Hornets at 7 p.m. on NBA League Pass
Bulls at Pistons at 7 p.m. on NBA League Pass
Celtics at Knicks at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
Wizards at Raptors at 7:30 p.m. on NBA League Pass
Cavaliers at Grizzlies at 8 p.m. on NBA League Pass
Rockets at Timberwolves at 8 p.m. on NBA League Pass
76ers at Pelicans at 8 p.m. on NBA League Pass
Magic at Spurs at 8:30 p.m. on NBA League Pass
Thunder at Jazz at 9 p.m. on NBA League Pass
Nuggets at Suns at 10 p.m. on ESPN
Kings at Trail Blazers at 10 p.m. on NBA League Pass
Mavericks at Hawks at 7:30 p.m. on TNT
Bucks at Heat at 8 p.m. on NBA League Pass
Clippers at Warriors at 10 p.m. on TNT