When the NBA schedule is announced Tuesday, it either will be embraced or taken as yet another lockout tease, sort of like the list of available free agents.
It will be a tangible, yet tormenting, moment, particularly when it comes to the interconference portion of the schedule.
For those who forget, when the NBA endured the 1998-99 lockout, there also was a summer release of a full 82-game schedule. However, when the lockout dragged into January and the league reduced the schedule to 50 games, the first matchups sacrificed were games against the opposing conference, with most teams limited to five.
So for those circling Lakers-Bulls, Heat-Mavericks, Knicks-Nuggets, you may want to circle them in pencil, because when the games become jammed together like the back-to-back-to-backs in that lockout compacted schedule featured in 1998-99, the first thing to go are the cross-country flights.
A year ago, the NBA released its schedule in two parts, first a series of nationally televised games, which included several tempting interconference offerings and then the remainder of the mundane schedule.
Tuesday, figure on plenty of mundane, particularly if the NBA sticks with its approach of not referring to active players on NBA.com or NBA TV or even in its news releases.
For years, the league has sold its players when selling its games.
Tuesday, it will attempt to sell rivalries, team-vs.-team rivalries, as if Kobe vs. LeBron or ‘Melo vs. former teammates do not exist.
But when it comes to face value, what can’t be taken at face value Tuesday is any hype regarding East vs. West battles for supremacy.
Because if the lockout drags on for months instead of weeks, those matchups simply may never materialize.