Mike Terry, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — For the second time, the NBA has released a schedule for the 2011-12 season.
Only this time, it's for real.
Assuming players and owners ratify the tentative collective bargaining agreement, that is.
As far as the Utah Jazz are concerned, a real interesting 66-game schedule — the second-shortest in franchise history — begins Dec. 27 in Los Angeles. It ends only 121 nights later at home against Northwest Division rival Portland.
The Jazz start their condensed and unlocked NBA season at Staples Center against the Lakers in a TNT-televised game two days after the league tips off with a Christmas Day quintupleheader.
The opener begins a stretch of six games in eight nights for the Jazz, who play at Denver on Dec. 28, rest on Dec. 29, make their home debut Dec. 30 against the Philadelphia 76ers and then travel to San Antonio for a New Year's Eve showdown with the Spurs. Utah then has back-to-back home games against New Orleans (Jan. 2) and Milwaukee (Jan. 3).
So, the important question: When will The Jimmer and D-Will visit?
Former BYU star Jimmer Fredette's Sacramento Kings will be in Utah twice — once more than the original schedule — on Jan. 28 and March 30. Utah also plays the Kings twice on the road.
Deron Williams, assuming he isn't dealt by the Nets as rumors suggest might happen, and New Jersey will make their only trip to Utah on Jan. 14, almost a year after he was traded by the Jazz.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James' Miami Heat will play in Utah on March 2, but the Jazz won't pay a return visit to South Beach. Chicago's Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer will not play in Utah, but the Jazz will visit the Windy City.
One thing that stands out about the Jazz's schedule is the amount of times they'll play in three consecutive nights. All 30 teams are required to play at least one back-to-back-to-back set due to the condensed time frame, but Utah ended up with only one triple tilt — Feb. 12-14 at Memphis, New Orleans and Oklahoma City.
Some thought the Jazz would get more undesirable triples. The organization requests the NBA not schedule home games on Sunday because many Utah fans won't attend sporting events on the Sabbath Day.
Being the only main tenant in the building helped Utah's cause, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor suggested. (In comparison, the Utah Blaze indoor football team only has three games in the NBA window while Staples Center has to deal with the Lakers, Clippers and NHL Kings.)
O'Connor was also satisfied the Jazz have only 20 regular back-to-back games in a compressed schedule, which he said "is not crazy over what we normally do."
No NBA team ended up with three back-to-back-to-backs, as had been warned might happen.
"I think (NBA schedule-maker) Matt Winick has done a terrific job," O'Connor said.
And, really, because the lockout wiped out nearly two months of schedule time, it's going to be a wild ride for everybody in the league.
"The guys that adapt to it are the guys who are going to be able to succeed," O'Connor added. "There are 33 at home and 33 on the road. We'll play them as they come."
That said, a rough-looking stretch of the schedule from Feb. 2-April 2 does jump out at the Jazz.
In that time jam-packed period, Utah has 22 road games, including a five-game trip, compared to just 12 home games. The five-day All-Star break in Orlando (Feb. 26 game) is in there, too.
"It is going to be road-heavy because we have a lot of home games in January," O'Connor said.
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