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Was this really the best way for the NBA to come back?

“Yes and no,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I think, you know, it’s certainly not the way (the Magic) wanted the NBA to come back. And I think the NBA, I can’t speak for them, but I think they would want in some ways things to be a little bit more positive than they been. But at the same time, the Chris Paul and Dwight Howard situations have created a tremendous amount of interest, to the point where I don’t even hear any mention of the lockout anymore _ just those situations.

“The NBA has really gone to the top of the sports news in the last few days in the middle of an NFL season and everything else. So the NBA is probably getting more attention right now than they normally would at this point in December. So I would say there’s some positive to it for them also. There’s not a lot of positive to it for us, but for to the NBA in general I think there’s some positive to it for them.”

The NFL settled its lockout early enough that its entire schedule remained intact minus one preseason game. The NBA is giving teams only 16 days and two exhibition games from the time business reopened until the season tips off _ with a whole new set of rules to learn in between.

“The NBA is shooting from the hip. We didn’t get rules on the collective bargaining _ our ability to sign and trade players _ we didn’t get it until the day before we opened up camp, and we had a conference call at 8 a.m. the day of camp opening explaining the rules,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said, before shaking his head.

“When you have a season that’s delayed and starts on Dec. 1, and you have a week to do your business, and then training camp starts a week later, half the guys in the NBA still aren’t signed, it’s just a very unusual circumstance. It’s unfortunate that the players have to go through it, but there’s a lot of guys out there right now. Teams are in training camp. A lot of teams went into training camp with six-seven guys on their roster. That’s never happened before. We just have to get through it. Everybody has a job to do, and our coaches are on edge. All of a sudden on a Saturday morning, there’s resolution and their season starts in 10 days. It’s just something that we’ve never dealt with before.”

Kupchak went on to trade Lamar Odom, to Bryant’s disappointment, to the Mavericks after the Hornets deal fell through. But by the time Odom took the floor in Dallas, it left only 12 days before the defending champions are scheduled to host the Heat in a finals rematch.

Stern hasn’t commented since a statement last Friday explaining his reasons for vetoing the trade, without influence from other owners. He’ll be at the game in Dallas, as well as Oklahoma City’s opener later that night.

Maybe by then things will feel back to normal.

They sure aren’t now.

“This is about as bizarre to a start of a season that I’ve seen,” new Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “Forget just that short training camp and forget it’s really hard on rookies that come in here. This trade has been done, then all the sudden it’s not done and then it is done. Then guys aren’t practicing that are completely healthy and want to practice and stuff. It’s just crazy.”

“I guess that goes to show why the league didn’t want to do this,” he added. “No one in the league, none of the players, nobody wanted to get to this point in the season. They wanted to get this all handled in September and I wish they had.”

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AP Sports Writers Greg Beacham in Los Angeles, Kristie Rieken in Houston, Tim Reynolds in Miami, Kyle Hightower in Orlando, Fla., and Paul Weber in San Antonio contributed to this report.

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