NEW YORK, Aug 3, 2010 (AFP) – LeBron James, the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player who left Cleveland for Miami in July, will make his debut for the Heat at Boston on October 26 in the NBA season opener, the league announced Tuesday.
James joined pals Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Heat roster and was joined by Lithuanian center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, another former Cavaliers star, on a Heat squad that is expected to challenge for the championship in 2011.
Miami will meet the reigning Eastern Conference champion Celtics - led by Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. They pushed the Los Angeles Lakers to the seven-game limit before losing the NBA Finals last June.
James and the Heat will visit Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on December 25 in a Christmas showdown that tops five NBA games to be played on the holiday.
The Lakers will also play on the NBA's opening might, starting their quest for a third consecutive league crown at home against Houston in what is expected to Yao Ming's return for the Rockets after missing all of last season.
Chinese star center Yao was sidelined after foot surgery but a healthy return could signal a resurgance for the Rockets, who will be spectators as the Lakers raise a championship banner to the rafters of their home arena.
The night after the season openers will feature games between some of the NBA's most talented young players, with NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant leading the Oklahoma City Thunder against visiting Chicago and top draft pick Blake Griffin debuting at home for the Los Angeles Clippers against Portland.
The Orlando Magic will open a new home arena on October 28 when the Washington Wizards visit. The same night will see Canadian star Steve Nash lead the Phoenix Suns into Utah.
The next night, James and the Heat will play host to Dwight Howard and the Magic while the Lakers visit the Suns in a rematch between last season's Western Conference finalists.
Houston will play host to Denver on October 30 with Utah at Oklahoma City the fllowing night and Portland traveling to Chicago on November 1.
Christmas games in addition to the marquee Miami at Lakers matchup include Orlando at Boston, Chicago at New York, Denver at Oklahoma City and Portland at Golden State.
The US Martin Luther King Jnr holidat on January 17 features a full schedule of NBA games, with the most compelling being Oklahoma City at the Lakers in a rematch of a tight first-round playoff matchup from last season, and Orlando at Boston in a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference finals.
A complete NBA regular-season programme will be announced next Tuesday.