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Winderman: Unveiling the key deadlines of the lockout-shortened schedule

Dec 19, 2011, 9:11 PM EDT

David Stern, Adam Silver AP

The traditional NBA calendar? About as useful these days as those 82-game schedules put out by the league in July.

So we made a call, since, frankly, there has been no formal word from the NBA regarding many of the annual key dates.

And this is what we have come up with, with some of the scheduling yet to be fully determined.

Roster deadline: Dec. 24, 6 p.m.

Talk about a lump of coal in the stocking. This is when teams must cut down to the 15-player regular-season roster limit. Because of luxury-tax issues, expect several teams to operate, at least at the start of the season, below the limit. And remember, while there are more liberal D-League rules regarding assignments this season, players sent down still count against the 15-player NBA team limit.

Trade deadline: As of now, March 15.

However, this merely is a date the NBA is targeting, with the date still in need of Board of Governors approval. That decision is pending. It would come with six weeks remaining in the season, an unusually late three weeks after the All-Star break.

Guarantee date: All contracts become guaranteed Feb. 10.

This is another key date for teams seeking to avoid the $70 million luxury-tax limit, as well as the $74 million luxury-tax cliff.

Start of 10-day contracts: Feb. 6.

This is when many of the players cut this week could reappear. As always, there is a limit of two 10-day contracts per player, after which they must be released or signed for the balance of the season.

Active-roster reduction: Feb. 6.

Because the quick start up from the shortened training camps, the league will allow teams to dress and play 13 players per game, instead of the traditional 12, through this date. Then, in another twist, teams may dress 13 the balance of the season, but only play 12, allowing for more in-game flexibility.

Rookie-scale extension deadline: Jan. 25.

This traditionally is before the end of the first week of the season, but this is not a traditional year.

Playoff-eligibility: Traditionally, players must be waived by March 1 to be eligible for another team’s playoff roster.

This deadline has yet to be established.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

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