I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the 2011-2012 season is back on, which means high-fives and screams of “HUZZAH” emanating from franchise headquarters and local sports newsrooms in NBA cities, as beat reporters and team employees will not be losing their livelihood for a year. But with almost two months wasted, 480 regular seasons games lost, and a kaput preseason, what does this mean moving forward for you, the fan? Here, now, is what to expect in the coming weeks.
The NBA will open its season on Christmas Day with an epic triple-header. The slate of Christmas games will go ahead as scheduled, but since the first month of the season was wiped out, this triple-header will also be the first day of NBA action. The lockout sucked, but this is awesome, and when you throw in the fact that all NFL games for that weekend will be played on Saturday, it’s even better. With a full slate of NFL games on Saturday (some of which will determine playoff berths), and three marquee NBA openers on Sunday, Christmas weekend 2011 might go down as one of the most memorable sports weekends ever.
By the way, those marquee NBA matchups are:
- Knicks vs. Celtics: The Knicks were swept in 4 games last year by the aging Celtics, but may fare better in Year 2 of the Carmelo and Amar’e experiment. And if New York is somehow able to sign Chris Paul before this game? Whoa.
- Heat vs. Mavericks: Then, there’s a rematch of 2011 NBA Finals when the Miami Heat face the defending champion Dallas Mavericks at 2:30 PM EST on ABC. LeBron. Dirk. Wade. Mark Cuban getting his rings as an angry David Stern looks on. Need we say more?
- Lakers vs. Bulls: Finally, the third game of the opening day triple-header will feature the Chicago Bulls, and reigning MVP Derrick Rose, traveling to Los Angeles to face new coach Mike Brown and the Kobe-Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers at 5:00 PM EST on ABC. Come for Rose’s remarkable athleticism, stay for the possibility that Bryant is caught on camera bossing his docile new coach around.
The remainder of the league’s schedule will be reworked in the next couple days to account for the two month’s we lost while the players and owners played an expensive game of chicken.
Much like the NFL, NBA free agency will be condensed into an extremely tight window that will see an insane flurry of moves. Team training camps and the free agency period are set to start simultaneously on December 9th, which would give teams two weeks to assemble a roster and then take the court. That’s not a lot of time, and with moves involving Paul, Dwight Howard, and Andrew Bynum a very real possibility, it will be an exciting two weeks.
With the lockout-shortened season, there will be 66 regular-season games instead of the usual 82. This is the second-shortest regular season in the modern game after the 50 game lockout-shortened 1999 season that started in early February.
With the cramped schedule, the lockout is likely to push a playoff bracket a week or so into the spring. Also, NBA All Star weekend in Orlando, FL was initially set for the weekend of February 24-25, but it’s likely to be “preserved.”
For all of this to take effect, though, the the National Basketball Player’s Association (NBPA), the same union that dissolved to sue the league on Anti-Trust grounds, needs to be reconstituted, and then they need to vote on it. According to Steven Ashburner at NBA.com, it will take a week or 10 days to get the new CBA deal formally ratified.
Said Hunter: “We’re going to turn it all over to the lawyers here and have them work out all the details. We’ll be able to then talk with you further as that process proceeds.” It could take a week to 10 days for the players to re-form their union and ratify a formal CBA.
In terms of who won and who lost… does it matter? We have a season, and that collective sigh you heard around your Thanksgiving leftovers means Saint Nick came a little early. We’ll have basketball starting on Christmas Day.