Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, steals the ball away from Oklahoma City's… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The NBA on Tuesday released its schedule for the 2011-12 season — even though the league has locked out its players.
The announcement was made on NBA TV — even though the lockout has been in place since July 1, there have been no negotiations between owners and players in three weeks, and no talks appear on the horizon.
Nonetheless, the NBA appears to conducting business as usual in case there is a full season. And the new schedule, however provisional, indicates that Blake Griffin and the Clippers have joined Kobe Bryant and the Lakers as must-see TV.
The Lakers may be an aging team that lost in the Western Conference semifinals to eventual NBA champion Dallas and also lost coach Phil Jackson to retirement, but they still have Bryant, Pau Gasol and 27 dates on national television this season.
The exploits of Griffin, the 2010-11 NBA rookie of the year who became a sensation because of his highlight-reel dunks, has made the Clippers relevant nationally as well. They are scheduled to be on national television a franchise-record 20 times, five on TNT, eight on ESPN and seven on NBA TV.
The Lakers are to be featured on TNT 10 times this season, tied with the Mavericks and Boston Celtics for the most national games on that network.
The schedule has the Lakers opening the regular season Tuesday, Nov. 1, at Staples Center against the young, athletic Oklahoma City Thunder, led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
The Lakers, who were embarrassed by the Mavericks in a 4-0 sweep in the playoffs, are scheduled to face them for the first time Dec. 15 in Dallas.
The two teams are to meet three more times, Jan. 16 in L.A., March 21 in Dallas and Sunday, April 15, at Staples Center on ABC.
"The Lakers are going to come back strong, definitely," Shaquille O'Neal, the retired former Lakers center who will work next season as an analyst for TNT, said Tuesday.
Here are some other big-time games for the Lakers:
•At Miami on Dec. 8, and at home against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Co. on March 4.
•At Boston on Feb. 9; at home against the Celtics on March 11.
•At home against the Chicago Bulls and league most valuable player Derrick Rose on Christmas Day.
The Lakers are scheduled to play 18 sets of back-to-back games. The longest trip on their schedule is six games, at Orlando, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, New York and Toronto, from Feb. 3-12 when the Grammy Awards will occupy Staples Center.
The Clippers' regular-season opener is scheduled Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Staples Center against the Memphis Grizzlies, who lost to the Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals.
The Clippers have 22 back-to-back sets on their schedule.
Their longest trip is eight games, from Feb. 1-13, with stops in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Indiana, Miami, Orlando, Charlotte, Atlanta and Dallas.