Lakers to Begin NBA Season With Three Games on Consecutive Days

The Los Angeles Lakers will play on each of the opening three days of the National Basketball Association season, the first of 42 triples in the lockout-shortened schedule.

The Lakers begin at home against the Chicago Bulls at 5 p.m. eastern time on Dec. 25, one of five opening-day games. They visit the Sacramento Kings the next day and return to L.A. to face the Utah Jazz on Dec. 27. All 30 teams will play on three successive nights at least once, with none having to do so more than three times under the 66-game schedule.

Teams don’t face triples during a typical 82-game season. The scheduling became necessary because the shortened season will begin 55 days late following a five-month labor dispute. There were 64 so-called triples during the 1998-1999 campaign, which was curtailed to 50 games by a labor dispute.

The league and players agreed in principle on a new labor contract on Nov. 26 and are expected to ratify the deal by tomorrow to allow training camps to open the following day.

“The new collective bargaining agreement is designed to provide more competitive balance for our league, reward strong performances by our players and strengthen our game by improving its economics,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said in an open letter to fans last night.

TNT Coverage

Time Warner Inc.’s Turner Broadcasting System begins its 28th year of NBA coverage with the New York Knicks hosting the Boston Celtics at 12 p.m. eastern time on Dec. 25.

In all, TNT will broadcast 45 games, including 10 appearances by the Celtics and Lakers, nine by the Miami Heat and eight each by the Dallas Mavericks and Knicks.

Also on opening day, the Oklahoma City Thunder host the Orlando Magic, the Los Angeles Clippers are at the Golden State Warriors and the Mavericks host the Heat, who Dallas beat in June to earn their first NBA title.

“It’s going to be a little bitter for us because we’re going to have to watch them raise their banner, but it will be great motivation,” Miami forward Chris Bosh told NBA TV last night.

After beginning the season at the Lakers, the Bulls have six more road games out of their opening nine fixtures.

“On the road is where you really develop that chemistry because you have that us against the world mentality,” analyst Greg Anthony told NBA TV. “If you play .500 or just above that, you feel real good.”

The NBA All-Star Game will be held Feb. 26 in Orlando.

NBA players will vote on whether to ratify the collective bargaining agreement between today and tomorrow afternoon, Sports Illustrated said on its website, citing a letter from union Executive Director Billy Hunter to players. The NBA’s board of governors will meet in New York tomorrow.

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