As if there was a reason to doubt any longer, the NBA's new Collective Bargaining Agreement has finally been approved and we are set for the slew of discussions, rumors and acquisitions to come.
One item that can't be overlooked is how the condensed schedule will effect various teams, particularly veteran teams like the Boston Celtics.
Having missed nearly two months of the regular season, teams would have already played somewhere in the realm of 28 games by December 25. With only 16 games being omitted from the usual docket, we will be seeing many more back-to-backs than usual.
The Celtics will need a much-improved bench from last year if they expect to give their veterans the kind of rest they will need for the playoffs.
That being said, let's see what the Sterns have put on the calender for 2011-12.
Sunday, December 25, will see Boston at the New York Knicks.
With talks of a Tyson Chandler arrival and the expected departure of Chauncey Billups, it is difficult to say what type of team the New York Knicks will be putting on the court for Christmas Day.
The same can be said for a Boston Celtics team that is on the hunt to improve the horrendous supporting cast that contributed to last spring's demise.
Gary Washburn (via Twitter) has reported that Bucks guard Keyon Dooling will sign with the Celtics on Friday when free agency starts. While it is wise to have a decent backup for Rajon Rondo, this puts Delonte West's role on the team into question.
Regardless, it is only the beginning.
After the Celtics swept the Knicks in last year's playoffs, New York will be rocking Madison Square Garden in hopes of gaining some feeling of vengeance in what will be one of the great slates of Christmas games the league has ever seen.
Who will Shaquille O'Neal be rooting for as he joins TNT's analyst booth to watch two of his past teams square off in one of the season's biggest early matchups?
Note: The announcement that Shaq would be joining Charles Barkley and friends was one of the things that made the lockout extremely difficult to bear. I can't wait to see this circus.
The Miami Heat exhibited dominance over the Celtics in last year's Eastern Conference semis, showing that the Celtics could not contend with their speed—especially without Kendrick Perkins clouding the lane.
The Heat are looking to have a bolstered staff from last year's squad with the potential acquisition of Chauncey Billups, having already nailed down defensive stud Shane Battier.
The game will also give us a decent picture of exactly how many more pieces the Celtics will need to have in place in order to make a run at the Heat come postseason.
The Celtics will follow up the Heat game with their first double-header against the New Orleans Hornets. With David Stern potentially interfering on the deal between the Hornets and the Los Angeles Lakers for point guard Chris Paul, the Hornets team that will actually be on the court for Boston's first major bout with conditioning is also in doubt.
From February 9 to February 22, the Boston Celtics will go through one of the toughest stretches of their short season.
Within those 14 days, the Celtics will play the Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls (twice), the defending champ Mavericks and Kevin Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder in a slate that includes eight games and three back-to-backs.
While it is unsure what team the Lakers will have on the floor, the Bulls, Mavericks and Thunder will retain the majority of their core, looking no less difficult to opponents than they were last year.
The second Bulls game and the Mavericks game will make up the back end of two of the three back-to-backs, with both of them coming on the road. It would be optimistic to think the Celtics could win one of these games, let alone both.
The second Bulls game also marks the beginning of a five-game stretch on the road.
If you were looking at the Boston Celtics' schedule for March without looking at which games were home and away, you would probably think it was their easiest month of games.
Unfortunately, a month that lacks the strength of opponents that some of the other stretches indicate makes up for it with one of the more ridiculous slew of road games that any team in the league has on its schedule.
Six of the Celtics' 17 games in March will be played away from home, and at that point the real madness is only beginning.
In the NBA, closing in on spring means closing in on the playoffs.
It is at this time that teams begin making the tough decision of whether to aim for playoff positioning or rest star players for the grueling two months that are rapidly approaching.
The Celtics will play the Miami Heat three times in April, beginning with an ABC matchup on Sunday, April 1.
After April Fool's Day, the Celtics will play back-to-back games at home against another team running out of glory days—the San Antonio Spurs, before traveling to Chicago to take on the Bulls.
The Celtics will also play the Heat on April 10, 17 and 24—their second-to-last game of the season.
At that point in the season, the Celtics will likely have their rotation set for the beginning of the playoffs and will likely get the best idea of how the team will be able to match up as Boston attempts to keep age at bay.
In any event, this fan is more than ready to spend a glorious Christmas drooling over the ridiculous skills of the best players in the league.