Monday , Aug , 02 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Pistons to open title defense against Rockets

New York, NY (Sports Network) – The defending NBA champion Detroit Pistons
will tip off the league’s 59th season when they host the Houston Rockets on
Tuesday, November 2 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

TNT will cover the Pistons/Rockets game, highlighted by the ring ceremony for
the NBA champions and Tracy McGrady’s regular-season debut with Houston. Also
on opening night of the 2004-05 campaign, Sacramento plays at Dallas, while
Denver visits the Los Angeles Lakers.

ESPN’s game coverage gets underway on November 3 with a doubleheader headlined
by Shaquille O’Neal’s first game with the Miami Heat as they visit the New
Jersey Nets.

ABC will begin its telecasts on Christmas Day featuring O’Neal’s highly
anticipated return to Los Angeles as the Heat battle the Lakers. The ABC
national television schedule consists of 18 regular-season games, including
five weekends of regional coverage.

For the first time, the schedule features a weeklong series of games that
highlight regional contests, divisional games and historic playoff matchups as
part of Rivalry Week, which runs from Tuesday, February 22 through Wednesday,
March 2. Highlighting the week’s action will be a rematch of the 2004 NBA
Finals between the Lakers and Pistons on February 25 as well as the Lakers and
Celtics going at it on February 22.

For the third consecutive season, ABC will exclusively broadcast the NBA
Finals, which get underway on June 9. Also, ESPN will be the exclusive home of
the 2005 Western Conference finals, while TNT will exclusively televise the
Eastern Conference finals.

Finally, the 2004-05 season will feature divisional realignment. The NBA’s
newest member, the Charlotte Bobcats, will begin its inaugural campaign as
part of the Eastern Conference, while the New Orleans Hornets will move from
the Eastern to the Western Conference.

Each conference will now have 15 clubs comprised of three divisions of five

The Eastern Conference will consist of the Atlantic Division (Boston Celtics,
New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors),
Central Division (Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Indiana
Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks) and Southeast Division (Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte
Bobcats, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards).

The three divisions in the Western Conference will be the Southwest Division
(Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Hornets,
San Antonio Spurs), Northwest Division (Denver Nuggets, Minnesota
Timberwolves, Portland Trail Blazers, Seattle SuperSonics, Utah Jazz) and
Pacific Division (Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles
Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings).

Under the new plan, teams will play division opponents four times each (twice
at home and twice on the road), conference opponents outside the division
three or four times each and opponents outside the conference two times apiece
(once at home and once on the road).

The three regular season division winners in each conference will earn a
playoff berth and one of the conference’s top three playoff seeds based on
regular season record. The remaining five playoff spots for each conference
will be based on regular season records with no regard to division alignment.

Home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs will be based solely on
regular season record, not playoff seeding. Therefore, a division winner that
has a higher playoff seeding than an opponent will not necessarily have home-
court advantage in the postseason series.