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The 2011-12 NBA season was the 66th season of the National Basketball Association (NBA), began with the signing of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the owners of the 30 NBA teams and the NBA's players. The previous CBA, which was ratified in 2005, expired at 12:01 AM EDT on July 1, 2011, resulting in a lockout. With the new deal in place, the regular season was shortened from the normal 82 games per team to 66, because of nearly two months of inactivity. The season began on December 25, 2011, and ended on April 26, 2012. The playoffs started on April 28 and ended on June 21 when the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of their series, 121-106, winning the Finals, 4-1 and to capture the franchise's second NBA title. LeBron James was named both the season MVP and the NBA Finals MVP.
The lockout was the fourth work stoppage in the history of the NBA. It began at UTC (12:01 am EDT) on July 1, 2011. The main issues dividing the owners and the players were revenue sharing and the structure of the salary cap. During the lockout, teams could not trade, sign or contact players and players couldn't access NBA team facilities, trainers, or staff members. All preseason games (scheduled to begin October 9) and the first six weeks of the regular season (scheduled to begin November 1, through December 15) were canceled. Some players signed contracts to play in other countries, and most had the option to return to the NBA as soon as the lockout ended. On November 26, 2011, after 15 hours of talks, a tentative deal was reached; once officially ratified, the NBA started a revised 2011-12 season. Owners allowed players to have voluntary workouts at team sites starting December 1. On December 8, 2011, the lockout ended when the owners and players ratified a new CBA agreement.
Training camp began on December 9. A revised two-game preseason schedule took place.
A revised 66-game regular season began on December 25, 2011, with five Christmas Day games, two more than the original schedule. The league built a new schedule from scratch based on available arena dates. In October, the league allowed arenas in Los Angeles and Chicago to reassign NBA dates for other events. The number of games between conferences was affected as was the case in the 1999 lockout, when each team played only five or six interconference games in a 50-game schedule. Normally, each team plays teams in the other conference twice each. Teams played 48 conference games and 18 non-conference games in a 66-game schedule, compared to 52 conference games and 30 non-conference games in a normal 82-game season. Teams played on average two more games per month and also were required to play three-consecutive games at least once in the season. In total, the league had 42 sets of back-to-back-to-back games throughout the season, with 11 teams playing two such sets. The exception was the then champion Dallas Mavericks, who never had a set of 3 consecutive back to backs. The three-game set, or "triple", also occurred during the shortened 1998-99 season, which featured 64 triples and sloppier play due to tired players. Before that, the last occurrence was two decades earlier. On 29 occasions during the season, teams played a stretch of five games in six days. With fewer off days during the season, the level of play was lower due to fatigue, and some older players rested to avoid burnout and recuperate from injuries. When the San Antonio Spurs rested Tim Duncan for a game in March at the end of a back-to-back-to-back, coach Gregg Popovich submitted the description of Duncan's injury as "Old".
On December 8, 2011, the New Orleans Hornets, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets agreed to a trade that would send Chris Paul to Los Angeles. NBA commissioner David Stern nullified the trade, saying the Hornets were better off keeping Paul than accepting the terms of the deal. The league had acquired the Hornets from former owner George Shinn, and the commissioner's office has final authority over all management decisions. Several of the other owners, who co-own the Hornets, also opposed the deal.Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert felt that the Lakers were acquiring the best player in the deal, Paul, and reducing their salary to possibly acquire Dwight Howard. Owners believed the trade would have sent a bad message coming out of the lockout, where one goal was to give small-market teams a chance to keep their players. Paul had long been speculated to be leaving the Hornets as a free agent after the end of the season. Magic Johnson said the trade denial "sends a bad message to fans", and Dwyane Wade called the situation a "mess". The three teams involved in the trade attempted to lobby the league to reverse its ruling as well as reconstruct the deal that would satisfy the league, only to met by resistance from the league who wants the Hornets to receive more youth and draft picks. Later, the Lakers pulled out of the trade talk. Five days later, Paul was finally traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Toronto Raptors became the first North American sports franchise to apply 3D application to its hardwood floor, which when seen by the players and in-arena spectators appears flat, but when seen by the television audience appears popped up. It made its debut in a pre-season game against the Boston Celtics at Air Canada Centre on December 18. On December 21, when the two teams met at the TD Garden, the Celtics became the first team to apply their Twitter account on their trademark parquet floor.
On February 19 in an overtime win vs. the Denver Nuggets, Kevin Durant scored 51, Russell Westbrook scored 40, and Serge Ibaka had a triple-double marking the first time that a player scores 50+ points, with another scoring 40+ points, and another having a triple-double in the same game.
The Charlotte Bobcats set the single-season NBA record for the worst winning percentage, going 7-59 for a .106 winning percentage. The 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers previously held the record with .110, but they played the typical 82-game schedule.
The Philadelphia 76ers became the fifth eighth seed to defeat a top seed in the playoffs, winning the first round series in six games over the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls lost reigning MVP Derrick Rose to an ACL injury in Game 1, who consequently missed the rest of the series.
January 28: Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant with his 7,161st free throw broke the Lakers all-time free throw record, breaking Jerry West's record in a 100-89 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
January 29: Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant with his 9,936th field goal broke the Lakers all-time field goals record held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just one day after breaking Jerry West's team free throw record in a 106-101 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
February 3: Youngest player to 18,000 points - Miami Heat forward LeBron James scored his 18,000th career point in a 99-79 win against the Philadelphia 76ers. James was 28 years and 35 days old. This record was previously held by Kobe Bryant.
February 6: Bryant 5th on NBA all-time scoring list. Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant passed Shaquille O'Neal after scoring his 28,597th point during the first half of a 95-90 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
April 26: NBA Record: Phoenix Suns shooting guard Josh Childress broke the record for the most minutes played in one season without making a free throw with 491 minutes played this season.
April 26: NBA Record: Charlotte Bobcats set the record for worst winning percentage in a season at 0.106 (7-59), surpassing the record previously held by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers. In doing so, they also set a record for worst home winning percentage at 0.121 (4-29), beating out the record previously held by the 1947-48 Providence Steamrollers.
April 26: NBA Record: San Antonio Spurs finish the season with a 50-16 record, in doing so they won at least 50 games for the 13th straight season.