- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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What you're about to read probably will end up being partially, if not totally, irrelevant.
Nothing like a lockout with little hope on the horizon to put a wet blanket on an NBA schedule-release shindig, huh?
However, if there's an NBA city that can muster an appropriate level of excitement at this point, it's probably the place that just held its first championship parade. There's plenty to look forward to around these parts if -- and that's a big if -- the Dallas Mavericks actually get a chance to defend their title.
The Mavs' amazing championship run certainly made them media darlings. They are scheduled to be featured on national television 30 times during the regular season -- highlighted by an opening night home game against the Chicago Bulls and a Christmas afternoon home date against Finals foe Miami Heat -- matching the Celtics for the most in the league. It's an increase of 25 percent from last season.
This might be a new version of fantasy basketball, but here's a month-by-month breakdown of the Mavericks' 2011-12 season:
NOVEMBER (nine home/seven road): The most difficult three-game stretch of the season might come immediately after the opening tip. The Mavs open with the Bulls, a team that swept Dallas last season and finished the regular season with an NBA-high 62 wins, and follow that with a road/home back-to-back against West rivals San Antonio and Oklahoma City. More than half of the remaining 13 games in the month come against teams coming off lottery seasons. The most intriguing games in that stretch are a couple of matchups with the Memphis Grizzlies, an on-the-rise team that gave the Mavs trouble last season, and a visit to Denver to grant George Karl his wish (a little late) to play the Mavs. Prediction: 12-4
DECEMBER (seven home/seven road): Nothing encourages Christmas spirit like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade returning to Dallas for the first time since they mocked Dirk Nowitzki's cough. Miami's holiday visit is far from the Mavs' only marquee matchup this month. They also play the other teams that made the NBA's final four, visiting Chicago on Dec. 7 before hosting the stunningly swept Lakers on Dec. 15 and making the short flight to Oklahoma City for a Dec. 29 game. The Mavs also would face prized free agents-to-be Dwight Howard of Orlando and Chris Paul of New Orleans on consecutive nights. Prediction: 10-4
JANUARY (seven home/six road): The NBA didn't do the Mavs any favors by scheduling their annual trip to Boston on the butt end of a back-to-back. That, along with a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matchup with the Lakers at Staples Center, is the highlight of this month. The Lakers game would tip off a season-high-tying four-game road trip. The Mavs finish the month with four straight home games, including a Sunday visit from the Spurs. Prediction: 9-4
FEBRUARY (seven home/seven road): There's a four-game road trip, consisting of two back-to-backs, early in the month. That doesn't sound pleasant, but a sweep of Minnesota, Cleveland, Indiana and Detroit wouldn't be surprising. The marquee game of this month is a Feb. 19 trip to Madison Square Garden. That's an early Sunday afternoon tip, which would be dangerous for a team tempted by the New York City nightlife. Prediction: 11-3
MARCH (seven home/nine road): This is the most grueling month on the schedule. There are five back-to-backs scheduled, including a Miami/Orlando roadie to finish the month. There is a stretch of five straight games against lottery teams, but eight of the other 11 games are against playoff teams. Prediction: 9-7
APRIL (four home/five road): There is a four-games-in-five-nights road trip in the final week, going from Golden State to Portland to Los Angeles against the Lakers to Utah. It would be stunning if the Mavs' vets, especially Jason Kidd, played in all of those games. Good thing the Mavs proved this spring that the importance of momentum entering the playoffs is a myth. The priority down the stretch will be resting all the 30-something legs. Prediction: 5-4
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.
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6dMatt Walks, ESPN.com