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John Schuhmann

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As it currently stands, the Thunder-Lakers matchup has been scratched, but it could still happen.
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Schedule for any new season won't look anything like normal


Posted Nov 3 2011 1:44PM

Pay no attention to the schedule on your favorite NBA team's website. Or the one here on NBA.com. Under no circumstances, even if the season starts on Dec. 1 (as those schedules now show), will the games be played as shown.

Dates will change. Opponents will change. Some games will be added and some will be removed. Upset that two instances of Lakers-Thunder have been wiped out? Don't fret yet, because at least one of them could magically reappear.

On Oct. 10, with no agreement reached between the league and players on a new CBA, the NBA canceled all regular season games through Nov. 14. Then, 18 days later, with the two sides still at an impasse, the league canceled all games through the end of November.

Immediately after each announcement, those games vanished from the schedule pages here on NBA.com. That made for a dramatic effect, but it also rendered those schedules uneven, unbalanced and, therefore, unfeasible.

As the schedule stands, the New York Knicks are left with 67 games: 36 at home, 31 on the road, 43 against the Eastern Conference and 24 against the West. The Miami Heat are left with 69 games: 32 at home, 37 on the road, 42 against the East and 27 against the West.

That, of course, just ain't fair.

Standard 82-game schedule
Opponents Teams G/Team Total G
In division 4 4 16
Rest of conf. 10 3 or 4 36
Other conf. 15 2 30
Total 29 2.8 82

The NBA won't comment on its plans for the schedule should an agreement be reached in time to salvage a partial season. But multiple reports and common sense tell us that Matt Winick, the man who draws up the schedule every year, has several contingency plans in the works. And he's pretty much starting from scratch, scrapping the schedule that was originally released on July 19.

When he finally settles on one, every team will play the same number of games, and it will be an even number, so that they all have an equal number of home and road games. The season will likely stretch beyond April 18 (the original final day of the season), with the first round of the playoffs being squeezed so that there aren't multiple off days between games.

Arena schedules aren't exactly flexible. So teams, especially those that share an arena with an NHL team, will keep most of their scheduled home dates. But the teams they're facing on particular dates will change.

Most likely to be saved, of course, are the three Christmas games ... should the league and players reach an agreement by Thanksgiving or thereabouts. ESPN/ABC and TNT have paid a lot of money for television rights, and were hurt by the cancellation of Kia Motors NBA Tip-Off '11 (the first four days of the season). So they'll want to keep those marquee matchups on the holiday.

Beyond those three contests, it's anybody's guess how things will turn out.

We've done this before, of course. The 1998 lockout didn't end until Jan. 6, 1999. Opening night was pushed back until Feb. 5 and the regular season ran through May 5.

Back then, 29 teams were split in four divisions, three with seven teams and the Central Division with eight. The Hornets were still in Charlotte, the Grizzlies in Vancouver and the Sonics in Seattle. The Bobcats weren't even a glint in David Stern's eye.

For each team to play 50 games, 725 total contests were played in 90 days, an average of 8.1 games per day or 3.9 games per team per week. Training camp was shortened and, at times, teams had to endure games on three consecutive nights, which never occurs during the course of a normal season. In a typical, 82-game campaign, the league plays 1,230 games over 170 days, 7.2 games per day or 3.4 games per team per week.

To limit travel, each team played just five or six games against the other conference in '99. That meant three road games on the opposite coast. And as a result, Knicks-Spurs was the only Finals matchup in NBA history where the two teams hadn't met in the regular season.

The abbreviated training camp and condensed schedule produced the ugliest season in NBA history. Those playoffs also included some back-to-back games in the conference semifinals. Three of the four series played Games 3 and 4 (in the lower seed's city) on consecutive nights.

A scenario like that is certainly a possibility again this year if the lockout continues to drag on. But if an agreement were to be reached in the coming days and the season starts on Dec. 1, the league could play a 72-game schedule without exceeding a standard 7.2 games per day, and be finished by April 30.

Season scenarios
Season G/Team Total G Days G/Day Team G/Week vs. Opp. Conf.
Normal 82 1230 170 7.2 3.4 30
1998-99 50 725 90 8.1 3.9 5 or 6
*'11-12 72 1080 151 7.2 3.3 30
* Hypothetical scenario where the season starts on Dec. 1 and ends on April 30

And 72 games is fairly easy to balance out. Teams could still play two games against each of the 15 teams in the opposite conference (30 total), with every team visiting every arena at least once. Teams would then play exactly three games against each of the other 14 teams in their conference (42 total). Divisions are meaningless anyway.

That's probably the best scenario that we can hope for. But if the two sides can't come to an agreement soon, more cancellations will come. Just remember that the league isn't really erasing those games from the 2011-12 season. It's just erasing those dates.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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