The Knicks will open the 2011-12 schedule at home against the Miami Heat on Nov. 2 — unless they do not. Carmelo Anthony will make his anticipated return to Denver on Nov. 16 — or perhaps not. will play 29 nationally televised games — their most in at least 11 seasons — if only there is a season to play.
It will be weeks and possibly months before anyone knows whether games will be played, or when and under what circumstances.
, the last time the league locked out its players, opening night was delayed until Feb. 5 and the season reduced to 50 games. The schedule that was released on July 23, 1998, was rendered obsolete by Oct. 13, when the N.B.A. announced its first round of game cancellations.
The first echo of the 1998-99 dispute came in the first paragraph of Tuesday’s news release, which ended “in the event that the N.B.A. is able to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the N.B.P.A. in a timely fashion.” The wording was virtually identical to a statement in 1998.
A postponed, truncated or canceled season would be crushing to the Knicks, who are primed for a renaissance with Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups leading the way.
The Knicks, who were a .500 team after acquiring Anthony in February — and swept in the first round of the playoffs — still have much to prove. , scheduling the Knicks for 29 games on TNT (8), ESPN (10), ABC (4) and NBATV (7), one more than the Miami Heat. Only the Boston Celtics and the defending champion Dallas Mavericks have more national games, with 30 each.
If the season starts on time, the Knicks will open at the newly renovated Madison Square Garden against the Heat. It could be a stressful November, with 10 of the first 13 games on the road, and five sets of back-to-back games in three weeks, including a set against the Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers (Nov. 16-17).
Danilo Gallinari, the key player traded to Denver in the Anthony deal, is scheduled to make his first return to the Garden on March 28. The Knicks and the Nuggets never met last season after their blockbuster deal.
The Knicks will again be featured on Christmas, with a home game against the Celtics.
Under the N.B.A.’s unbalanced schedule, Western Conference teams visit the Garden only once. Scheduled highlights include Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 8; Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 17; Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Feb. 10; and the Mavericks on Feb. 19.
Mark Jackson, the former Knicks star who was recently named coach of the Golden State Warriors, is scheduled to return to New York on Feb. 29 — leap day, a day that may prove as illusory as the N.B.A. schedule itself.
The N.B.A. and the union have not held a bargaining session since June 30, and none are scheduled. Staff members from both sides will meet Friday, but no proposals will be exchanged, and none of the principals — Commissioner David Stern or the union’s executive director, Billy Hunter — will attend. Nor will any owners or players.
So the negotiating drought continues — another echo of 1998, when the parties did not meet from June 22 to Aug. 6.
Even the N.B.A.’s network had to hedge when it unveiled the schedule Tuesday.
“Welcome into our Atlanta studio for what is admittedly an optimistic exercise,” the NBATV anchor Matt Winer said.
The studio team nevertheless discussed potential highlights, including an opening night featuring the Bulls against the Mavericks and the Thunder against the Lakers. The finals rematch will come Dec. 25, when the Mavericks visit Miami.
With Stern’s blackout rules still in place, NBATV could not show any video of current players. Instead, it showed archival footage of Michael Jordan scoring an opening night-record 54 points in 1989 and Bernard King scoring a Christmas Day record of 60 points in 1984.
“Hopefully, all this plays out,” Winer said at the show’s close. “We can’t guarantee anything at this point.”