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.
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.
The Spurs won 61 games last year and are too wise and too good to ignore. The Boston Celtics are shrinking with age. The New York Knicks have become intriguing with the additions of Chandler and Baron Davis.
The LA Clippers should go on a meteoric rise with the additions of Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Butler. Meanwhile, the LA Lakers stand at the edge of a cliff with the pouting departure of Sixth Man Award winner Lamar Odom and the crumbling health of Kobe Bryant, who is only 33, but amazingly is about to start his 16th season.
The biggest variable this season is time, or lack thereof.
The Thunder will have just 25 practice opportunities inside its new practice facility during the regular season. That total includes the usual day off after back-to-back games, but does not include potential days off Brooks presumably will grant out of human decency. Five of the practices will come on the same day the Thunder departs on a road trip. Brooks said 15 or so full-fledged practices will be the more likely number.
In reality, OKC players will take zero days off while at home. Even when no practice is scheduled, every player routinely shows up at the facility to get in some kind of workout and/or treatment.
Every. Single. Player. This type of work ethic has made quite an impression on Brooks and general manager Sam Presti, and should do the same with ownership and fans.
Peer pressure runs deep within the Thunder. If a superstar like Durant habitually puts in an extra hour before and after practice, every player on the roster feels pressure to also put in extra work.
"Nobody wants to be that guy (who doesn't show up on a day off)," Brooks explained. "These guys talk about it. 'Hey, where were you yesterday when we didn't practice?' "
This is a big reason why the Thunder rightly is favored to win the West – that, and a breathtaking array of young talent that continues to blossom.
Don't expect any fluky finalists during this lockout season.
John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.