The NBA season is underway after a 160-day lockout.

The compacted schedule — featuring 66 games over 124 days — will present physical and mental challenges for the 450 players in the league.

The condensed season also will offer some wonderful wagering opportunities for the tens of thousands of players in the betting world.

The non-stop basketball action figures to produce ragged play with an increase in travel demands and a decrease in practice time.

At first blush, young teams with fresh legs like Oklahoma City and Memphis will benefit from the ability to recover quickly after a grueling game or two. Then again, veteran teams like the Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers may benefit from playing 16 fewer regular-season games.

For the first time since the last strike season (1999), the NBA will require teams to play back-to-back-to-back games.

Teams will play three games in three nights 42 times during the season with every team forced do it at least once.

The Los Angeles Lakers open the season with the rare “triple” and play six games over the first eight days of the regular season.

Twelve teams play a pair of “triples” during the regular season.

Here’s a list of the dozen teams forced to endure the dizzying demands of a schedule set forth by NBA owners and agreed to by the NBA Players Association:

ATLANTA HAWKS – January 5-7 and March 23-25

DENVER NUGGETS – December 31-January 2 and February 2-4

DETROIT PISTONS – January 30-February 2 and April 17-19

INDIANA PACERS – February 14-16 and March 22-24

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS – January 16-18 and March 20-22

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES – January 8-10 and February 28-March 1

NEW JERSEY NETS – January 21-23 and February 18-20

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS – January 9-11 and April 16-18

PHOENIX SUNS – February 13-15 and March 14-16

PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS – January 23-25 and February 14-16

SAN ANTONIO SPURS – March 23-25 and April 16-18

WASHINGTON WIZARDS – March 24-26 and April 4-6

Interesting to note, only one of the 12 teams (the Clippers) on the above list played on Christmas Day, a day the NBA decided to showcase its marquee franchises (Lakers, Celtics, Knicks, Heat, Bulls, Mavericks, Thunder, etc.). Is it possible the NBA protected the league’s biggest moneymakers from any additional wear and tear by rigging the schedule?

NBA SUSPENSIONS…..The Lakers will be forced to play without center Andrew Bynum, suspended by the NBA for five games for his cheap shot of JJ Barea in last season’s Western Conference semifinals. Journeyman Josh McRoberts (six points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes) replaced the enigmatic Bynum in the Lakers’ season-opening loss to the Bulls.

Detroit forward Charlie Villanueva also is serving a five-game suspension for an altercation late last season with Ryan Hollins of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Villanueva served one game of the five-game suspension in Detroit’s final game last season.

Bynum and Villanueva last week had their suspensions reduced from five games to four games since the lockout reduced the season from 82 games to 66 games (roughly 20 percent). The NBA wisely decided to lessen the punishments accordingly. Both Bynum and Villanueva are scheduled to return to action December 31.

MONDAY’S BEST BET…..Play 721 PHILADELPHIA +4 over Portland. Let’s trust Doug Collins in an early-season meeting against Nate McMillan. Life without Brandon Roy begins for the Blazers and the franchise received more bad news in the offseason when LaMarcus Aldridge underwent his third heart procedure in five years and Greg Oden suffered yet another medical setback. Jamal Crawford arrives from Atlanta to provide scoring punch but the short-handed Blazers appear vulnerable. Philadelphia guard Jrue Holiday of the Sixers is an emerging star and forward Elton Brand offers veteran leadership. The Sixers are a deep team with a loaded bench, especially if Evan Turner joins Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young on the list of reserves. Philly looked solid recently in a pair of preseason wins over the Wizards. In what figures to be a close, low-scoring game, let’s grab the four-point head start.

FULL DISCLOSURE…..In my last blog entry, I suggested six wagers and five of the six lost. For the record, I bet every selection I recommend. Brutal.

COMING FRIDAY…..Complete details of a college basketball contest sponsored by SportsOptions ( featuring a weekly prize of $500, compliments of Rick Allec’s growing company based here in Las Vegas.

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