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Focus can return to court at last

Finally, the conversation changes.

For months, the talk was about lockouts, salary caps and mediation. Now there are games that count as a new season begins Christmas Day. And nowhere is that more exciting than in Los Angeles — but it's not the Lakers generating the buzz.

For all practical purposes, Clippers fans have been locked out of competitive basketball for the better part of three decades. Now they get entertainment of the highest order: watching Blake Griffin throw down lob passes from Chris Paul.

The 2011-12 season, shortened to 66 games, debuts today when five marquee games will be played. This marks a first step for the league as it looks to bury a damaging offseason marred by a five-month labor dispute and several stars trying to force their way out of town.

The day begins with Boston and New York then goes to an NBA Finals rematch with Miami at Dallas. Next up is Chicago at the Lakers, followed by Orlando at Oklahoma City before CP3 makes his regular-season debut as a Clipper at Golden State in the nightcap.

"The lockout was hectic for everybody," Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley said. "We were bored! Now we feel like we've got a purpose in life. We can do what we do best."

It's time.

It's time for Derek Fisher to be seen in Lakers gold, not Brooks Brothers gray.

It's time for postgame news conferences with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, not post-meeting sessions with David Stern and Adam Silver.

It's time for Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks to defend their title on the court, not for Jeffrey Kessler and the players' union to defend their decision to disband in the courts.

"I don't even want to talk about the lockout anymore, man!" Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant said. "It was just so frustrating to go through that and everything that went on. … But I'm glad we got through it."

GRIZZLIES-HORNETS TRADE: Memphis swapped guard Greivis Vasquez to the Hornets for guard/forward Quincy Pondexter in a move designed to boost its depth with Darrell Arthur out for the season. Earlier, forward Dante Cunningham signed with the Grizzlies after the Bobcats declined to match their offer.

HEAT: Veteran guard Eddie House was waived, clearing the way for rookies Terrel Harris and Mickell Gladness to make the opening-day roster.

THUNDER: Guard Nate Robinson was waived.

Today's openers

• Celtics at Knicks, noon, TNT

• Heat at Mavs, 2:30, Ch. 28

• Bulls at Lakers, 5:15, Ch. 28

• Magic at Thunder, 8, ESPN, Sun Sports

• Clips at Warriors, 10:30, ESPN

Focus can return to court at last 12/24/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 24, 2011 8:17pm]
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