It takes a major bounty to decrease value—82 games in a normal NBA schedule is the same.
Each game acts as a mini piece to a long winding road of monotony. Players take nights off, battle make-shift injuries, insist their play is better served in the postseason.
But come 2012, things will be different.
Sixty-six games ratchet the frenetic nature of the coming season. And while players were once granted two to four weeks to calibrate their roles, they will now be forced to play hard and together ASAP.
For NBA fans this is excellent news as each game will be a domino in a long line of must-win games. However, there will still be those few games that shed light on a team's fortitude.
For Thunder fans these 10 games concoct the greater compass for 2011-2012.
Let's be honest about these things. As excited as Thunder fans will be on Christmas Day to watch their team perform at home, a bigger more poignant thing will take predominant attention.
Where in the world is Dwight Howard?
The big man is not only this offseason's largest piece of trade bait, but is also the type of superstar to reroute and shift the balance of power in the NBA.
Memories of last year are as follows: 1) Win 56 games, 2) Russell Westbrook's hot temper, 3) Dirk Nowitzki ripping through the Thunder in the Western Finals.
This year the reigning champions tack Lamar Odom, Rudy Fernandez, Brandon Wright and a healthy Rodrigue Beaubois onto the team's immeasurably potent bench.
And if the Thunder aim to be taken serious as a title contender they'll need an early win over the champs to set that in motion.
Secondarily the game will be an early sign to how far Westbrook has come in his maturation into a ball-sharing point guard.
If not a win, the Thunder can count their title chances far fetched. And if Wesbtook is still being the same old Westbrook, he can expect himself to be the hottest trade bait at the All-Star break.
This game is as important to the Spurs—if not more so—as it is for the Thunder.
Though a W over a consummate title-contending team with three veteran winners in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili is potent, it is even more of a gauge for how deep the West truly is.
The Spurs, though impressive last season with a league-best 61 wins, lost to an upstart Grizzlies team in the first round. If they fall apart due to their age this season, the door of dominance is that much wider for the Thunder.
But if the Spurs still have some gas left in the tank you expect a bloodbath as always in the Western Conference.
There is no duo quite like Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.
And while the duo dropped 50.9 points combined per game last season, they come into 2012 with wider and higher expectations this season.
Nabbing a brutal force like Tyson Chandler in free agency is just the right defensive buoyancy to balance the Knicks and make them an ever greater postseason threat.
The Celtics are more than tough to beat at home.
They're near impossible with a stalwart defense and a group of veterans with poise unlike many.
Last season the Celtics' Big Three proved they have enough left in the tank to make at least one or two more runs in the postseason.
And while the Knicks aim to take control of their division, the Big Three-plus-one (Rajon Rondo) aim to reinsert themselves into title talks.
For the Thunder, beating a team like the Celtics at home is essential in their maturation.
The game will also be the first previewing of Rondo vs. Westbrook, since a deal fell through in June involving a swap of Rondo and Jeff Green for Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins.
Since June: Mavericks 4, Thunder 1.
In what will be their third match between each other, both teams by February first will be gearing up for Western Conference dominance. Both teams will be either really worrying about facing the other in the postseason or the opposite—calm, collected and confident.
Whichever it may be, this battle in Dallas will be a palpitating metaphor for May.
A lot has happened since the Lakers-Thunder epic Round 1 match in 2010.
While the Lakers beat an upstart eighth-seeded Thunder team, the young core of Durant and Westbrook proved their relevance in the upper echelon of the NBA.
By Feb. 23 we'll know how relevant the Lakers still are.
If not, I suspect a Thunder win could be the missile forever sinking the Lakers kingdom.
By now (March 25th), the league is in postseason projections.
Players are ratcheting up and teams are either succumbing to season-ending injuries, player personnel problems or coaching dysfunction.
I'm positive both of these teams will be postseason bound.
Can the Thunder prep themselves with a win over almighty Miami?
Can LeBron James ascend the big game blunders and finally take the helm as the league's crowned king?
As much as I love reigning MVP Derrick Rose, I'm pessimistic when it comes to his team's success.
As good as the Bulls were all last year, they faltered in the postseason for one major reason: Rose got tired.
Rose—as strong as he is—is one tweak away from a season-ending injury. If that is the case, the Bulls fade fast.
If not, we'll know it by April.
And if the Bulls are as good as they were last year, this game will be an epic bout between two of the youngest teams in basketball.
So whatever the outcome was in March's bout, this bout will be even bigger.
Can the Thunder win in a staunch, defensively stringent hot and Heated environment?
With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade leading the way, anything is possible. One moment they're the best team in basketball and the next, they're aloof and self-destructing.
Their implosion would be grand for many title contenders.
And if this is the case, a Thunder win would be the ultimate knockout punch.