Will a shortened NBA season bring fluky results?
The 2011-12 campaign will have 66 games squeezed into 118 games. Limiting injuries will be more important than ever.
During the NBA lockout of 1998-99, teams squeezed 50 regular-season games into 90 days. So tight was the schedule, there was no All-Star Game.
During the lockout season of 2011-12, the Thunder will squeeze its 66-game schedule into 118 days. There will be an All-Star Game, which means OKC teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook figure to play 67 games in 121 days.
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Led by center David Robinson, a second-year wonder named Tim Duncan and third-year coach Gregg Popovich, the San Antonio Spurs won the 1999 championship.
San Antonio was the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, tying the Utah Jazz for the best record in the league at 37-13. For the Spurs to excel that season, no matter how many games were played, was no surprise.
The Eastern Conference champion was a stunner, however. The New York Knicks finished the regular season at 27-23 and were the No. 8 seed.
The Knicks stunned the top-seeded Miami Heat (33-17) in an opening best-of-five series, blanked the No. 4-seeded Atlanta Hawks (31-19) in a best-of-seven, and advanced to the NBA Finals with a 4-2 series win against the No. 2-seeded (33-17) Indiana Pacers.
The Spurs had little difficulty disposing of the Knicks in the Finals, winning 4-1.
NBA players and coaches have long preached an 82-game regular season is a marathon, not a sprint. No one quite knows what to call a 66-game schedule in 118 days. A sprint marathon?
"Is it a half-marathon?" Thunder coach Scott Brooks wondered. "It's still a lot of games."
The league's previous shortened season brought a fluky finalist. Will this season bring the same?
"Good fortune is always important," Brooks said. "You don't want to have injuries. Teams that have injuries, it puts a lot of stress on that team. That's something you can't control. I think the better teams will be in the playoffs. Once you get into the playoffs, those fluky things can possibly happen."
The most prominent projection for this season's NBA Finals is Heat vs. Thunder.
Miami is overwhelmingly favored to win the crown, and rightly so. The Chicago Bulls are the distant No. 2 selection, followed closely by the Thunder.
The defending champion Dallas Mavericks took some undeniable hits with the departures of starters Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler/DeShawn Stevenson, plus a quality backup point guard Jose Barea.