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Friday, December 2, 2011
NBA adds 2 games to Christmas opener

ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Oklahoma City will host Orlando before Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers visit Golden State on Christmas night, running the NBA's planned opening-day schedule to five games.

Those games were added Friday to the three that already were set when the 2011-12 schedule was originally unveiled: Boston at New York, Miami at Dallas, and Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers.

Commissioner David Stern said the league hoped to open the season with that tripleheader after announcing a tentative agreement on a new labor deal with the players Nov. 26. But the league decided to add two later games, with the nightcap featuring Mark Jackson's debut as Warriors coach.

The revised 66-game schedule will be released Tuesday night during an NBA TV special.

TNT will televise the opener, while ABC gets the NBA Finals rematch and the matchup between MVP Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant, whose Lakers will be playing their first game under former Cleveland coach Mike Brown. The final two contests will air on ESPN.

"Everyone is looking at that first game like it's a championship game," Bulls forward Luol Deng told ESPNChicago.com. "We're excited. It's 66 games [this season]. That's one of 66. I think we're going to be prepared -- just not going for that one first game and that's it. We want to come out ready. But it's 66 games we've got to look forward to."

The Thunder reached the Western Conference finals last season behind league scoring champion Kevin Durant, while the Magic face the uncertainty of Dwight Howard's future with the team.

"It's a different opening day than has ever happened in the past and Christmas Day games have always been a big day for the NBA," ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said in a statement. "This unique situation combined with the unveiling of a championship banner for the Mavericks in a Finals rematch, and then to see the Lakers and the debut of Mike Brown as head coach, those things are all going to be very compelling."

The Dec. 25 opening date is contingent on the CBA being ratified next week.

Lawyers for the league and players' association resumed negotiations Friday on the remaining issues, the so-called B-list items such as drug testing, the draft eligibility age and the commissioner's power to discipline. The goal is to complete the agreement Tuesday so it could be presented at a meeting of player representatives Wednesday, then both sides would vote to ratify it Thursday.

If that happens, training camps and free agency would open Dec. 9.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.