When the status of the NBA season still was uncertain and the lockout claimed the first quarter of the original schedule, Carmelo Anthony considered the potential loss that inevitably came next.
The NBA did not want to miss it. And as it closes in on a completed collective- bargaining agreement, which could be put to ratification by the re-formed NBA Players Association by Wednesday, the league will make that previously scheduled Knicks-Celtics game the new season's opening act on Christmas Day.
The league on Friday announced only its opening-day plans for the lockout-shortened season, with a five-game schedule for Dec. 25 that will begin with the Knicks hosting the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden at noon.
The game will be broadcast by TNT, which has the rights to the first regular-season game every season. With TNT running the show, Marv Albert will call the game between teams that played in the first round of the playoffs last season. The Celtics swept the injury-riddled Knicks in four.
The NBA schedule will continue on ABC with an afternoon doubleheader that begins with a rematch of the teams in last season's NBA Finals. The defending champion Dallas Mavericks host the Miami Heat at 2:30 p.m., and the Mavs will raise their championship banner before the game. The Los Angeles Lakers will host the Chicago Bulls at the Staples Center at 5 p.m.
ESPN finishes with two games in the evening. The Oklahoma City Thunder will host the Orlando Magic at 8. Storylines include Magic free-agent-to-be Dwight Howard and coach Stan Van Gundy, who in the past has complained about the NBA playing on Christmas. The final game will be Mark Jackson's debut as coach of the Golden State Warriors, who will host the Los Angeles Clippers at 10:30.
The league will reveal the rest of its 66-game schedule Tuesday. Preseason games were announced Friday, including home-and-home games between the Knicks and Nets on Dec. 17 at the Prudential Center in Newark and Dec. 21 at Madison Square Garden.