It is not impossible for the NBA season to start on time. However, once you factor in time needed for a shortened free agent period and training camps (again shortened), the owners and players need to hammer out a deal in about a week or so.
So, not impossible, but I wouldn’t bet your rent money on things starting on time. Or even your drinking money.
And if the season is shortened, things get wildly complex for schedule makers. Over at the fantastic Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell, they touched on the challenges San Antonio faces with its annual “rodeo road trip.”
If the 2011-12 season is shortened by the current NBA Lockout, though, the Spurs won’t have anything near as favorable a schedule as the 1999 season was. The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo is scheduled to run from February 6 through February 23, and, as far as I know, those dates are set in stone; the Rodeo won’t change its schedule to accommodate the NBA. San Antonio is looking at a nine game road trip as things stand now.
In 1999, the Spurs played 12 games from February 6-23, the span that the 2012 Rodeo runs. If the NBA season is shortened to 50 games and the Rodeo sticks with its current dates, the Spurs could be forced to start the season playing almost half of their road games in a row.
It’s not just the Spurs. The Bulls have the annual “circus trip” that sends them out for weeks. The Lakers and Clippers get kicked out Staples Center for much of February to allow set up for the Grammys then time to clean up after whatever Lady Gaga did to the place.
If the league starts missing games, things are going to get ugly schedule wise for a few teams. Balance will go out the window. Just be warned.