After the lockout lopped off 16 games from each team's slate, the NBA will finally tip off its abbreviated 2011-12 season on Christmas with five contests.
TNT will present the first game of the new campaign with the Boston Celtics visiting the New York Knicks at noon (ET). From there it's a Disney day with a 2011 Finals rematch between LeBron James's Miami Heat and Dirk Nowitzki's defending champion Dallas Mavericks at 2:30 p.m. on ABC; the Chicago Bulls, led by MVP Derrick Rose, at Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers at 5 p.m. on ABC; Dwight Howard's Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder, featuring the league's top scorer Kevin Durant, at 8 p.m. on ESPN; and Blake Griffen's Los Angeles Clippers at the Golden State Warriors, now coached by former ABC analyst Mark Jackson, in the nightcap at 10:30 p.m. on the worldwide leader.
Highlights from the revised 66-game season will be trumpeted on Dec. 6, when NBA TV airs an NBA schedule release show at 7 p.m.
NBA owners and the reconstituted players union were expected to meet Friday to hammer out the final details on a new 10-year labor agreement, which reportedly includes an opt-out provision from both parties after six years. The owners and players -- with a simple majority needed from each side -- will vote separately to ratify the new deal on Dec. 8. Following approbation from both, training camps would open the following day.
TNT will begin its coverage with a special hour-long edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by AutoTrader.com at 11 a.m. on Christmas morning. The show will feature studio host Ernie Johnson and analysts Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, along with the TNT debut of 15-time NBA All-Star and four-time champion Shaquille O'Neal, previewing the day's action. Marv Albert (play-by-play) and Steve Kerr (analyst) will be courtside calling the action, with Craig Sager reporting from the "world's most famous arena."
"We are excited to tip off the start of the 2011-12 NBA season," said David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. in a statement. "Our talented roster of marquee announcers and analysts represent the very best in the business and they are ready to again inform and entertain our viewers throughout the season. I'm also looking forward to seeing Shaquille join our acclaimed studio team. His experience and insights as one of the game's great players will be the perfect complement to Ernie, Kenny and Charles."
TNT will serve as the exclusive home for NBA All-Star 2012 in Orlando from Feb. 24-26. The "drama" network will air more than 40 NBA playoff games this year including, on an exclusive basis, conference semi-finals and the Western conference finals.
As for Disney, the Kia NBA Countdown pregame show will preview the ABC doubleheader at 2 p.m.The two matchups on ESPN will also be available on broadband service ESPN3, as well as ESPN Mobile TV, Watch ESPN App.
"Like all NBA fans, we're excited for the start of the season and are thrilled with our Christmas Day quadruple header," noted Leah LaPlaca, vice president, programming. "There is no shortage of storylines - from the Finals rematch to some of the greatest stars in the league being on display - and we look forward to showcasing them while continuing the tradition of Christmas Day NBA games on ABC and ESPN."
Added Disney NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy: "It's a different opening day than has ever happened in the past and Christmas Day games have always been a big day for the NBA. This unique situation combined with the unveiling of a championship banner for the Mavericks in a Finals rematch, and then to see the Lakers and the debut of Mike Brown as head coach, those things are all going to be very compelling."
The ESPN telecasts will be up against NBC's Sunday Night Football coverage of the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers hosting the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.