The NBA finally opens its season with five games on Sunday.
NBA owners willingly lost October and November to get a new cost-efficient labor deal, but they weren't willing to let Christmas Day's massive, captive television audience pass them by. From morning until late night, here are the five games that begin this lockout-shortened, 66-game season wrapped with a big, shiny bow.
Player to watch: Tyson Chandler, Knicks
The scoop: This opener has all sorts of star power -- K.G., Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Melo, Amare -- but will New York's signing of the defensive-minded center who brought Dallas a title finally make the Knicks winners with more substance than flash?
The quote: "Sometimes athleticism is kind of overrated -- look at the old Houston teams, the old Utah Jazz teams -- when you know your system and your personnel. Boston's big advantage is they know their personnel." -- NBA TV analyst Chris Webber on the decrepit, dangerous Celtics.
Player to watch: LeBron James, Heat
The scoop: A rematch of last season's NBA Finals pits a Heat team that has since added Shane Battier against the champs that let Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea leave Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas via free agency in the name of preserving cap space to make a run at hometown guy Deron Williams in July 2012.
The quote: "If they don't win it this season, one of the Big Three will have to go. Their window is right now. LeBron's window is right now." -- ESPN analyst Magic Johnson on the Heat.
Player to watch: Derrick Rose, Bulls
The scoop: The Bulls added veteran shooting guard Rip Hamilton to a team that won 62 games last season and reached the East finals while the Lakers, rejected by David Stern after they struck a deal for Chris Paul, dealt away Lamar Odom to rival Dallas for little more than salary relief.
The quote: "The Lamar Odom trade is a bit perplexing to me, unless it leads to a domino effect to get Dwight Howard. They're not necessarily the same team they were last year." -- NBA TV analyst Greg Anthony on the Lakers.
Player to watch: Kevin Durant, Thunder
The scoop: While New Orleans had to deal franchise player Chris Paul and the Magic might be the next, OKC has Durant -- the league's biggest offensive mismatch -- signed through 2016. On Monday, he and the Thunder come to Target Center for the Timberwolves' season opener.
The quote: "They should show him some respect and get him another dominant player. Most [successful] teams have had a definite one-two punch. Right now in Orlando, you have a one punch and no one can do it by themselves." -- TNT analyst Shaquille O'Neal on Superman, Orlando All-Star center Dwight Howard.
Player to watch: Chris Paul, Clippers
The scoop: Think the NBA looks smart now? It added the Clippers to its Christmas Day schedule before the NBA's traditionally sorriest franchise transformed itself by acquiring Paul from New Orleans to team with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler.
The quote: "I can't believe I'm saying this ... there is a legitimate question now as to who is the best team in L.A." -- TNT analyst Charles Barkley.
|Cincinnati - A. Simon||1:20 PM|
|Chicago Cubs - J. Samardzija|
|St. Louis - M. Wacha||6:05 PM|
|Washington - G. Gonzalez|
|Milwaukee - K. Lohse||6:05 PM|
|Pittsburgh - C. Morton|
|Toronto - D. Hutchison||6:05 PM|
|Cleveland - J. Masterson|
|LA Angels - J. Weaver||6:08 PM|
|Detroit - D. Smyly|
|Atlanta - A. Harang||6:10 PM|
|NY Mets - J. Niese|
|Baltimore - C. Tillman||6:10 PM|
|Boston - J. Lackey|
|NY Yankees - H. Kuroda||6:10 PM|
|Tampa Bay - E. Bedard|
|Seattle - C. Young||6:10 PM|
|Miami - N. Eovaldi|
|Chicago WSox - F. Paulino||7:05 PM|
|Texas - M. Perez|
|Minnesota - R. Nolasco||7:10 PM|
|Kansas City - J. Vargas|
|Philadelphia - J. Pettibone||7:40 PM|
|Colorado - T. Chatwood|
|Houston - J. Cosart||9:05 PM|
|Oakland - S. Gray|
|San Francisco - M. Cain||9:10 PM|
|San Diego - T. Ross|
|Arizona - W. Miley||9:10 PM|
|Los Angeles - Z. Greinke|