Jones on NBA: A ton of challenges

December 7, 2011, 5:13 AM

No it’s not March, but it is basketball and the “madness” NBA style is about to begin in this compressed 66-game, lockout-shortened season.

And away we go!

Well at least the NBA has a sense of the dramatic. When the games start on Christmas Day, Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks will welcome the Miami Heat to the American Airlines Centre in Dallas to watch them unveil a championship banner. Hmmm, will it be a source of added motivation for the Heat? We’ll see.

The unbalanced compacted schedule will present tons of challenges, particularly for older more experienced teams. You can look at what some of the contending teams might be facing in their respective schedules and have a look and listen as to what some think about the respective chances of contenders.

From a Toronto perspective, all I can say is, it’s a good thing I work with good people on the broadcast crew, because I’m going to be spending hefty amounts of time with them on the road. The Raptors have 17 of their first 26 games on the road. In a nutshell, more than half the road contests will be knocked off the schedule in 43 days which is less than a month and a half into a four month season. It’s a far cry from the original schedule which was quite favourable with 15 sets of back-to-backs and no road trip longer than four games.

There is only one set of back-to-back-to-backs for Toronto and that comes when their legs may be relatively fresh early in the season. The Raptors play at home to Minnesota on January 9th, travel to Washington and then return home to finish up the set on January 11th against Sacramento. In all, Toronto will play 20 sets of back-to-backs and will set a franchise record when they will play 19 games in 31 days during the month of January.

My family might think the lockout is back on in February when the Raptors will be at home for 14 days from February 8-22 with a seven-game home stand leading up to the All-Star Break.

Commissioner David Stern wrote this letter to the fans to try and help win them back but there will be some places where fans will still be disappointed. You know it had to happen with the scheduled shaved to 66 games but like roulette, you were hoping the ball hit your number. For Raptor fans the key number is six. As in six teams that Toronto fans will not see at the ACC this season. New Orleans (with or without Chris Paul), Phoenix (no Steve Nash for you), Utah, Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and crew, the Los Angeles Clippers (Blake Griffin et al), and the defending NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks will not make an appearance in Toronto.

Hey I suppose it could be worse where fans in Sacramento won’t see Miami or places like Memphis or San Antonio where those fans will not get to hiss at the Heat or boo Boston this season. Phoenix fans could be particularly sour as well they won’t get a visit from Miami, Boston, Chicago, New York or Orlando.

Training camp is a couple of days away and the free agent period is going to be particularly crazy. You’ll hear it more than once this season so just hang on to your hat as the season is going to be a blur.

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