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Lakers' condensed schedule presents plenty of challenges

Besides opening with three games in three nights, the Lakers will face 17 back-to-back sets during the 66-game lockout-shortened NBA season, three more than they had in 82 games last season.

December 06, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, fouls Miami forward Chris Bosh during a game on Dec. 25. The Lakers will play back-to-back road games against the Heat and the Orlando Magic in January.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, fouls Miami forward Chris Bosh during… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Three games in three days isn't the only potentially problematic pocket in the Lakers' schedule.

They also play back-to-back road games against NBA title contenders Miami and Orlando in January before venturing to Dallas and Oklahoma City on consecutive days in February, part of the challenges necessitated by the lockout-shortened season.

The Lakers schedule that was released Tuesday includes one set of back-to-back-to-back games in addition to 17 back-to-back situations, or three more back-to-backs than they had last season during a full-length season. Their longest trip this season will encompass six games in 10 days in February, including a back-to-back against Boston and New York.

Marquee home games in addition to the opener against Chicago on Christmas include Dallas on Jan. 16, Miami on March 4 and Boston on March 11. The Lakers won't visit every NBA city as a result of the condensed schedule, skipping Chicago, New Jersey, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Atlanta and Cleveland.

The Lakers will play every Western Conference team three or four times as part of a season that calls for 66 games in 124 days, concluding with the regular-season finale at Sacramento on April 26. During the last NBA lockout 13 years ago, the Lakers played 50 games in 89 days.

As expected, the Lakers will open the lockout-shortened season with three games in three days, starting with the Bulls on Dec. 25 at Staples Center. Then they will play at Sacramento on Dec. 26 before returning home to play Utah on Dec. 27.

Center Andrew Bynum will miss the Lakers' first five games while serving a suspension for knocking Dallas guard Jose Barea to the court during last season's playoffs.

Fortunately for the Lakers, their opening slog represents the only time this season they must play three games in three days. San Antonio and Portland are among eight teams that must do it twice.

How difficult is it to play three games in three days?

The Lakers had to do it three times in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. Robert Horry, in a recent interview with The Times, said it "cut my career by a year" and was "murder on our bodies."

Former Houston and New York coach Jeff Van Gundy, now an analyst for ABC and ESPN, said the condensed schedule will put players at an increased risk of injuries.

"What they're asking the players to do is, to me, a total disregard for their health," Van Gundy said. "Some teams are going to be playing nine games in 12 nights, five games in six nights. The health of the players, it's being compromised and to me, the fans are going to get a tough product on some nights."

Van Gundy offered a solution to the problem, though he was only kidding to make his point.

"If you're going to do this, just play 82 games. Play doubleheaders," he said. "If we're going to be absurd with what we're asking these players to do, go beyond absurd."

Times staff writer Mike Bresnahan contributed to this report.

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