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NBA Schedule Released, Bucks Open Against Bobcats And Timberwolves

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Two weeks after finding out that we would have a season, we now have a schedule, too.

The Milwaukee Bucks open their abbreviated 66-game 2011/2012 schedule with the first of 20 back-to-backs, tipping off the season in Charlotte on Monday, December 26 against the Bobcats--six months after the three-team blockbuster that saw Corey Maggette and the Kings' seventh overall pick shipped to Charlotte in exchange for Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston and the 19th overall pick.

Less than twenty-four hours later the Bucks open the home schedule at the Bradley Center against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, December 27 at 7:30 pm. Including preseason games on December 17 and 21, that means three games in the span of 10 days against Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and the Wolves. The Bucks then get a couple days off before hosting John Wall and the Wizards on Friday, December 30, which means the Bucks should have a very realistic shot at opening the season with three wins. More schedule notes and Bucks news after the jump.

Unfortunately things get rough in a hurry, with 12 of the first 18 games on the road. The Bucks will still have a tough Western road trip to open January, with five road games in seven days against the Nuggets, Jazz, Kings, Clippers and Suns. But the Bucks have just four more road games out West all season (Houston, Dallas, Golden State and Portland) and avoid road games against a slew of tough Western foes (the Lakers, Thunder, Grizzlies, Spurs, Hornets). Among the Western teams the Bucks won't be visiting, only Minnesota failed the make the playoffs. See, this whole unbalanced schedule thing could work out after all.

On the flip side, the Bucks host both the Heat and Bulls twice, while the Lakers (1/28) and Thunder (4/9) both play their only games of the season against the Bucks in Milwaukee. The defending champion Dallas Mavericks don't visit Milwaukee at all, while among Eastern foes the Celtics visit just once.

The Bucks will also have a good shot at finishing strong, with nine of their final 14 games at home including a five-game homestand against the Cavs, Bobcats, Blazers, Thunder and Knicks. Moreover, only two of their final eight opponents had winning records in 10/11 (Philadelphia and Boston).

Aside from Fox Sports Wisconsin's usual coverage, the Bucks will also appear four times on NBA TV and once on ESPN. NBA TV will show the games in L.A. against the Clippers on January 7, in Orlando on March 3, at home vs. Boston on March 22, and in Washington on April 2. Milwaukee's only appearance on ESPN will be on Friday, April 13 in Detroit.

In other news:

JS: Gooden feeling good
Perhaps no one has as much to prove heading into camp as Drew Gooden, who once again figures to enter camp as Scott Skiles' presumptive choice to start at power forward. A year after signing a five year, $32 million contract, Gooden is hoping to put an uneven, injury-plagued first season in Milwaukee behind him. Charles Gardner reports:

"I committed my summer to my body," Gooden said in an interview from San Francisco. "I wanted my foot to be in the best condition it's been in, and you will shortly see that.

"The foot is feeling great. I have my days where it is sore, but I guess I won't know until I play five games in a row. I think the two biggest keys for any team this season will be staying healthy and being a deep squad."

Plantar fasciitis limited Gooden to just 35 games a year ago and limited his mobility when he did play, translating into more jump shots and the worst shooting numbers of his career (43.1% fg, 48.7% true shooting). The glass half full: he still rebounded well (16.1% rebound rate) and his PER (16.0) trailed only Earl Boykins (17.7) and Andrew Bogut (16.8).

JS: Darington Hobson gets chance
Gardner also writes that John Hammond expects 2010 second round pick Hobson to be invited to camp--not exactly a ringing endorsement for his future in Milwaukee, but also understandable given the Bucks' cramped roster and the fact that he hasn't played competitive basketball in about 20 months.

Woelfel: Caron Butler talks free agency
Gery Woelfel has been talking up the possibility of the Bucks pursuing free agent swingman and Racine native Caron Butler for some time, and Butler confirms the two parties had been in touch and that he would give Milwaukee "high consideration." My guess: the Bucks put in their call, exchanged pleasantries, and Caron is now returning the favor. Neither party seems all that serious about making it happen--Butler's been busy visiting the Clippers and Bulls among a slew of others--but there's really no downside for either party either. Butler has every incentive to talk up as many potential destinations as possible ("there's high demand for my services!") and the Bucks can say they at least made the effort.