We finally have a date and opponent for the start of the Detroit Pistons‘ 2020-21 season.
On Friday, the NBA released the first half of the 72-game schedule season. The first half runs Dec. 22-March 4 (see the Pistons’ first-half schedule below).
The Pistons open Wednesday, Dec. 23 at the Minnesota Timberwolves at 8 p.m., more than nine months since playing their last game.
The home opener at Little Caesars Arena is Saturday, Dec. 26 against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Andre Drummond (7 p.m.).
Other highlights include the Pistons hosting the Golden State Warriors on Dec. 29, then hosting back-to-back visits from the Boston Celtics on Jan. 1 and Jan. 3. The defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers visit on Jan. 28.
The 37-game first-half release of the schedule confirms a long-awaited return to play for the Pistons, who saw their 2019-20 season end prematurely on March 11 when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The NBA resumed play with 22 teams in July. The Pistons, who were out of the playoff race, stayed home.
To lesson travel due to the pandemic, the Pistons five times play the same team in back-to-back matchups at the same location, with one day between games.
Detroit enters the season with a revamped roster, with only five players returning from last season — Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Sekou Doumbouya, Svi Mykhailiuk and two-way forward Louis King. Jerami Grant, who signed a three-year, $60 million contract, and Killian Hayes, the seventh pick of the draft, headline the new additions to the roster.
The Pistons are undergoing a “retooling” after general manager Troy Weaver was hired in June. He said the goal for the team is to compete and develop a culture that fans can buy into, following a decade without playoff success.
“It’s a shortened season dealing with the pandemic, but the whole goal is to put a competitive team on the floor, that the city and the community can be proud of,” Weaver said. “And we’ll let the chips fall after that. We want to be competitive and we want a team with an identity that fits Detroit. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
Drummond will make his return to Detroit in an empty area, as the Pistons will not have fans in the arena for the foreseeable future due to the health crises. Along with the rest of the country, Michigan has seen a spike in positive COVID-19 cases and deaths in recent weeks. The state reported 8,689 new COVID-19 cases, 81 deaths Friday.
Drummond, 27, was a two-time All-Star in 7½ seasons with the Pistons after they drafted him No. 9 overall in the 2012 draft. He was dealt to Cleveland at the trade deadline for veteran reserves John Henson, Brandon Knight and a 2023 second-round pick. The center played eight games with the Cavs, before the suspension of the season.
The Pistons play four preseason games, beginning Dec. 11 vs. the New York Knicks at LCA.
More key NBA dates for the season:
• All-Star break: March 5-10, 2021.
• Second half of regular season: March 11-May 16, 2021.
• Play-in tournament (Nos. 7-10 seeds): May 18-21, 2021.
• NBA playoffs: May 22-July 22, 2021.
Dec. 23: at Minnesota, 8
Dec. 26: Cleveland, 7
Dec. 28: at Atlanta, 7:30
Dec. 29: Golden State, 7
Jan. 1: Boston, 7
Jan. 3: Boston, 3, NBATV
Jan. 4: at Milwaukee, 8
Jan. 6: at Milwaukee, 8
Jan. 8: Phoenix, 7
Jan. 10: Utah, 3, NBATV
Jan. 13: Milwaukee, 7
Jan. 15: Washington, 7
Jan. 16: at Miami, 8
Jan. 18: at Miami, 3
Jan. 20: at Atlanta, 7:30
Jan. 22: Houston, 7
Jan. 23: Philadelphia, 7
Jan. 25: Philadelphia, 7
Jan. 27: at Cleveland, 7
Jan. 28: L.A. Lakers, 7
Jan. 30: at Golden State, 8:30
Feb. 1: at Denver, 9
Feb. 2: at Utah, 9
Feb. 5: at Phoenix, 9
Feb. 6: at L.A. Lakers, 10
Feb. 9: Brooklyn, 7
Feb. 11: Indiana, 7
Feb. 14: at Boston, 6
Feb. 16: San Antonio, 7
Feb. 17: at Dallas, 8:30
Feb. 19: at Memphis, 8
Feb. 21: at Orlando, 6
Feb. 23: at Orlando, 7
Feb. 24: at New Orleans, 8
Feb. 26: Sacramento, 7
Feb. 28: New York, 6
March 2: at Toronto, 7:30, in Tampa, Fla.