by Joe Rodriguez
The NBA unveiled it's lockout-shortened, 66-game regular season schedule on Tuesday night.
After reaching a tentative agreement on November 26, both owners and players are taking the final steps to agree upon and vote on a new collective bargaining agreement before training camps open on Friday.
If the current timeline holds, the NBA's 66th season will open Christmas Day with a marathon of marquee matchups.
The day will open at noon (et) with Eastern Conference Atlantic Division foes Boston Celtics and New York Knicks squaring off at Madison Square Garden. The much- anticipated finals rematch will follow before the Chicago Bulls and reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose square off against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Heat and Mavericks will square off twice this season, with the other game coming on March 29.
Miami fell short of its self-imposed lofty expectations last season with a 4-2 loss to Dallas in the NBA Finals. Still, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh & Co. should be able to start strong, as just five of their first 12 games are against returning playoff teams.
The Dallas Mavericks captured their first-ever NBA title last season. Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki remains at the core of the veteran-laden group, but defensive anchor Tyson Chandler is an unrestricted free agent. Teams will be able to sign players as of Friday.
The NBA will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a four-game slate on January 16. Opening the action is an ESPN matchup between the Bulls and the Memphis Grizzlies, followed by the Hawks and Raptors on NBA TV. An evening doubleheader will be featured on TNT, beginning with the Celtics hosting the Thunder and ending with the Lakers hosting the Mavericks.
Memphis was a surprise story of the 2010-11 season. Entering the Western Conference playoffs as an eight seed, the Grizzlies swept the top-seeded Spurs before falling to Oklahoma City in the conference semifinals in seven games.
Opening day will act as a microcosm of the frenetically condensed season, which will require each team to play at least one stretch of back-to-back-to- back games.
The All-Star Game will take place in Orlando on February 26.
The regular season will conclude April 26, with the postseason set to begin two days later.
The last possible day of the NBA Finals will be June 26.
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