Kudos to the NBA for keeping the highly anticipated schedule under wraps and avoiding a leak, which is a minor miracle in our age of the internet and social media. But that’s about the only credit they’ll get from me today.

In a classic example of something making too much sense to actually be considered, the NBA decided to throw a wrench into the modified 66-game schedule for the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season.

In the usual 82-game schedule, teams play every team in their division four times (4×4=16), the other 10 teams in their conference three or four times (36) and each team in the opposite conference twice, home and away (15×2=30). Other than the uneven number of games against conference opponents, this format works well for a variety of reasons. The main reason being that every NBA team plays in every NBA city at least once per season.

I can see why this wouldn’t be possible in a 50-game season, but in a 66-game schedule, it really should have been easy. Keep the four games against division teams (16) and play the other 25 NBA teams twice, home and away (50). The division significance would have still been there, as would the visit by every team to every city.

But as mentioned, this simply made too much sense for a league that canceled a month-and-a-half of the season without changing enough in the CBA. Instead, teams will play four games against three of their division opponents (12), three games against one division opponent, three or four games against the other 10 teams in the conference (33), two games against three teams in the opposite conference, home and away (6), and lastly, 12 teams in the opposite conference just once. Way to ‘keep it simple, stupid.’

Now each team will have six teams in the opposite conference that never visit their city this season. I’m sure teams that won’t get home dates against the Heat, Celtics, Knicks, Magic, Lakers, Mavs or Thunder are just thrilled about this. For a lot of teams, that’s at least one guaranteed sell-out down the drain. Seriously, I want to meet and interview the NBA employee who thought of this format.

For the Raptors this season, a young struggling team that has seen attendance slowly dwindle, that means no home games against Steve Nash’s Suns, Kevin Durant’s Thunder, Blake Griffin’s Clippers, Chris Paul’s Hornets or the defending champions Mavericks (and the Jazz).

That’s three or four sell-outs Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment can kiss goodbye.

Now that I’ve had my time to complain about the ridiculous schedule format, let’s take a look at the actual schedule.

Here’s how it breaks down for Toronto:

-          4 games vs. Boston (2 home, 2 away)

-          4 games vs. New York (2 home, 2 away)

-          4 games vs. New Jersey (2 home, 2 away)

-          4 games vs. Atlanta (2 home, 2 away)

-          4 games vs. Washington (2 home, 2 away)

-          4 games vs. Cleveland (2 home, 2 away)

-          3 games vs. Miami (1 home, 2 away)

-          3 games vs. Orlando (2 home, 1 away)

-          3 games vs. Chicago (1 home, 2 away)

-          3 games vs. Philadelphia (1 home, 2 away)

-          3 games vs. Milwaukee (2 home, 1 away)

-          3 games vs. Indiana (2 home, 1 away)

-          3 games vs. Charlotte (2 home, 1 away)

-          3 games vs. Detroit ( 1 home, 2 away)

-          2 games vs. Denver (1 home, 1 away)

-          2 games vs. Houston (1home, 1 away)

-          2 games vs. Memphis (1 home, 1 away)

-          1 game @ Dallas

-          1 game vs. LA Lakers

-          1 game @ Oklahoma City

-          1 game vs. San Antonio

-          1 game @ Phoenix

-          1 game @ New Orleans

-          1 game @ Utah

-          1 game vs. Portland

-          1 game @ LA Clippers

-          1 game vs. Golden State

-          1 game vs. Minnesota

-          1 game vs. Sacramento

Key games:

Season Opener: December 26 @ Cavaliers (The Raps and Cavs play each other four times this season, games that could very well decide which teams finish 14th or 15th in the East. The other storylines: Kyrie Irving and T.O.’s own Tristan Thompson in their NBA debuts.)

Home Opener: December 28 vs. Pacers (A Wednesday night during the Holiday season against a mediocre opponent at best…this could be one of the lowest attended Raptors openers in a while)

December 30 @ Mavericks (The only matchup of the season with the defending champs, and Dwane Casey’s only chance to show the Mavs what they’re missing.)

January 2 @ Knicks (The new-look Knicks flat out dominated the Raptors last season, sweeping the season series by an average margin of 9.5 points. You could make the argument that the Knicks will be even better this season with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire given more time to gel, so it will be interesting to see how this year’s edition of the Raps competes with the Knickerbockers.)

January 14 @ Bulls (Raptors first meeting with reigning MVP, Derrick Rose. Chicago comes to the ACC on March 21.)

January 18 @ Celtics (Barring a miracle, the Raptors won’t be in the Celtics’ league this season, but they did give Boston some minor trouble last season, and even beat them once. With “The Big Three” getting older and slower, could the young Raptors finally find a way to have the Celtics’ number this season?)

January 24 @ Suns (The only matchup of the season against Steve Nash will take place in Phoenix.)

February 5 @ Heat (Any game against Bosh and the Heat will be circled on a Raptors fan’s calendar. This Super Bowl Sunday affair will be the first of three meetings between the two teams. The Heat don’t come to Toronto until March 30. Imagine the scene if the Raptors can find a way to steal a game from Miami.)

February 12 vs. Lakers (In one bit of good news, the only meeting with the Lakers this season will take place North of the border. I’m sure fans in Hollywood are just crushed).

Season Finale: April 26 vs. Nets (The last game of this compacted season will take place at the ACC. Will it be another example of the Raps just playing out the string, or will the game actually mean something?)

Back-to-back-to-backs: 1 – January 9, 10, 11 (vs. Timberwolves, @ Wizards, vs. Kings)

Back-to-backs:  19

By month – December: 3 games, January: 19 games, February: 13 games, March: 17 games, April: 14 games

By days – Monday: 10 games, Tuesday: 8 games, Wednesday: 17 games, Thursday: 1 game, Friday: 14 games, Saturday: 5 games, Sunday: 11 games

With the schedule release out of the way, we now await the start of training camps and free agency on Friday and of course, the actual season opening on Christmas Day.

Get ready for what should be a couple weeks of madness. And don’t forget, the best way to keep up with all that madness from a Raptors perspective is to ‘like’ our RaptorBlog Facebook page.