BOSTON ( MainStreet) -- NBA basketball's return is just about the best Christmas gift hoops fans can hope for, but a shortened season may leave them wondering what's in that present.
After locking out its players during a labor dispute that lasted from July 1 to Dec. 8, the NBA is starting its season Christmas Day with a five-game slate on TNT (TWC), ESPN and ABC (DIS). That season, however, was reduced from 82 games to 66 after the first six weeks of the original-recipe 2011-12 season were cancelled.
The amount of time players have had to prepare and condition has been cut dramatically as well and has forced the league to cut long travel for out-of-conference matchups from 30 games last year to only 18 this year. The All-Star Game has been saved, but teams will have to play three games in a row this season for the first time since the lockout-driven 50-game 1998-99 season.This NBA season is going to require some adjustment no matter how much fans enjoy Christmas matchups between the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks, Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder and L.A. Clippers and Golden State Warriors. The fun of watching the Clippers play with new toy Chris Paul or the Knicks celebrate getting Tyson Chandler as the center on the holiday wish list is balanced by a number of stubborn little obstacles that can ruin a good time as quickly as a zone defense or lead-weighted kicks during a dunk contest. The following are five nagging little details fans should keep in mind as the season starts: