December 25, 2011 in Sports

Frenzy allowed NBA to open on Christmas

Ben Bolch Los Angeles Times
 
Today’s games

• Boston Celtics at New York Knicks, 9 a.m. (TNT)

• Miami Heat at Dallas Mavericks, 11:30 (ABC)

• Chicago Bulls at L.A. Lakers, 2 p.m. (ABC)

• Orlando Magic at Okla. City Thunder, 5 (ESPN)

• L.A. Clippers at Golden State Warriors, 7:30 (ESPN)

LOS ANGELES – The insanity began not long after the lockout ended.

Neil Olshey’s days would start with 6 a.m. calls to agents on the East Coast.

The Los Angeles Clippers’ executive vice president of basketball operations then worked his way across the time zones, contacting agents based in Chicago and Dallas before eventually reaching Los Angeles. Sometimes he didn’t make his last call until midnight, his work attempting to woo top players seemingly never done.

“It really became like you were in this weird world of kind of grabbing a couple of hours of sleep here and there and then getting back on calls again,” Olshey said, “because you just couldn’t let an opportunity pass.”

Olshey had it easy compared to Troy Murphy. The free-agent forward signed with the Los Angeles Lakers on a Saturday, had his first practice on a Sunday and played in his first exhibition game on a Monday.

“I brought three bags and have only one opened up,” said Murphy, who was living out of a hotel. “The other two, I don’t even know what’s in them.”

Welcome to the NBA’s compressed training camp/free-agency scrum.

NBA training camps that usually last a month were shortened to 16 days, with a corresponding free-agency period leaving teams unsure of what their roster might look like at any given moment.

Boston practiced with fewer than 10 players for three days. The Lakers had a makeshift roster that included unknowns Zack Andrews, Chris Daniels and Elijah Millsap.

There wasn’t any doubt about the impetus for the epic cram session.

“For sure, they crunched it up to get that opening day on Christmas,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said. “That’s good ratings for them.”

We’re talking Boston vs. New York, Dallas vs. Miami, Lakers vs. Chicago, Orlando vs. Oklahoma City and Clippers vs. Golden State in a TV lineup sure to leave plenty of coins jingling in the NBA’s pockets.

League spokesman Tim Frank pointed out the NBA Players’ Association agreed to the Christmas start and ensuing 66-game schedule, meaning everyone was on board with the craziness, at least in theory.

“We wouldn’t have started on Christmas, unless we were confident that the teams would be ready to begin the regular season,” Frank said.

Do the Lakers look ready?

They will have had little more than two weeks and only two exhibition games to learn the offensive and defensive schemes preferred by new coach Mike Brown. Murphy and fellow free agent Josh McRoberts, who also joined the team late, will have had considerably less prep time than that.

McRoberts said he wished the league had held its free-agency period before camps commenced Dec. 9.

“It’s almost like you’re treated like a holdout in that sense where you’re kind of punished for being a free agent, because I would have loved to have been in camp the first day,” said McRoberts, who signed a two-year, $6.2-million contract.

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