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Winderman: Post-lockout schedule leaves players hurting, fans wanting

Jan 19, 2012, 12:39 PM EDT

Miami Heat v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

Glance at those NBA ads promoting broadcasts of games and you’ll notice the small print that reads: “Scheduled to appear.” That disclaimer is becoming the motto of this NBA season.

Because what you’re planning for isn’t always what you’ll get.

Just ask the TNT folks, who on Thursday night were primed to show Kobe vs. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, a perimeter three-for-all.

Then, with Wade dealing with ankle, foot and calf issues and sidelined for a second consecutive game, it became Kobe vs. LeBron.

Except LeBron was nowhere to be seen Thursday morning at AmericanAirlines Arena because of the flu-like symptoms that have been ravaging the Heat locker room. Or, as power forward Chris Bosh said, “washing your hands is important.”

Which is all the more reason why the NBA should wash its hands of ever constructing a season like this again.

Too many games, coming too quickly, with not nearly enough recovery time.

In fact, while Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was explaining who might not be available for his team Thursday night, the ESPN crawl was telling us that Derrick Rose again was being held out of practice.

And on it goes in this post-lockout reality, no one quite sure who will be playing when.

To his credit, during his appearance on ESPN’s pregame show Wednesday, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was candid with the approach taken this season, how teams not only look at the current opponent when planning their rotations, but also what looms. He said it has not been uncommon at halftime of games to consider the longer-term impact than of just the remaining two quarters.

In fact, Cuban said the number of lopsided scores this season is a factor of coaches saying enough is enough and looking to save players for the impending madness of the post-lockout schedule.

At the theater, if an understudy is placed center stage, refunds are offered.

In the NBA, it essentially is post-lockout caveat emptor.

At least there is a backup plan if there is no LeBron James in addition to no Dwyane Wade on Thursday night.

Fortunately for TNT, there’s always Plan B of “Law & Order,” over and over and over again, with post-episode analysis from Chuck, Kenny and Shaq.

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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