Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Another unique NBA season begins Tuesday night as the Golden State Warriors face the Brooklyn Nets and the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers play the Los Angeles Clippers after the shortest off-season in history.
"For the time that we've had, I feel like we've put in the work and gotten better," Lakers forward LeBron James told reporters Saturday. "It's a long season and a long journey."
James' Lakers were crowned champions Oct. 11, just 72 days before the first game of the new NBA season. The hiatus-impacted 2019-20 season resulted in an off-season that was two months shorter than the world's best basketball players typically enjoy.
"We all wish we had more [preseason] games, but we utilized it to come out and get better," Nets guard Kyrie Irving said Friday.
Warriors sharpshooter Stephen Curry takes on Irving and former teammate Kevin Durant in the first game of the regular season. The Warriors and Nets tip off at 7 p.m. EST Tuesday in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The Lakers then battle Kawhi Leonard's Clippers at 10 p.m. EST Tuesday in Los Angeles. Both games will air on TNT.
Last season, NBA teams played a normal schedule until the coronavirus pandemic forced a four-month hiatus and eventual transfer of 22 teams to a singular protective bubble campus in Orlando, Fla., for the completion of the season and playoffs.
The eight teams that didn't travel to Orlando had their seasons end in March because they weren't playoff eligible. The Warriors were one of those teams.
"I'm excited," Warriors forward Draymond Green said last week. "It has been a long time since we've played a real game of basketball. With all the things going on in the world, that's kind of been the last thing on everyone's mind.
"I feel rejuvenated, motivated and I'm really excited to get out there."
The 2020-21 season will have 72 games, instead of the typical 82-game schedule. The season also is broken into two parts. The first half runs from Tuesday though March 4, followed by March 5 to 10 All-Star break. The second half of the season runs March 11 to May 16.
The playoffs will be held May 22 to July 22.
The 2020-21 season template has the NBA's 30 teams returning to their respective cities and facilities around the United States for practices and games, but fans have yet to be approved to attend games for most teams due to local pandemic safety guidelines.
Seven NBA teams -- the Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies and Utah Jazz -- have announced they will allow a limited number of fans to attend games at the start of the 2020-21 season.
Most teams have said they will not allow fans at the start, but are open to a change later. Decisions to allow fans at games will be made on a team-by-team basis.
NBA teams were challenged with unprecedented travel itineraries and medical protocols amid the pandemic last season.
The 2020-21 season offers a greater challenge as teams must operate outside of the controlled bubble environment and attempt to contain the potential spread of the virus in their respective cities.
Player protocol for the new season requires those who test positive, but are asymptomatic, to sit out for 10 days after their first positive test. Players then have to pass a cardiac screening and work out alone at their respective team facilities for two more days before they are allowed to rejoin teammates.
Symptomatic players who test positive must sit out for 10 days after they last experienced symptoms. They then must follow the same protocol as asymptomatic players who test positive.
MVP, title favorites
Mavericks guard Luka Doncic is the favorite to win the 2021 NBA MVP award on most betting websites. Back-to-back reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has the second-best odds to win.
Curry, James, Leonard, Durant, James Harden and Anthony Davis are among the other top contenders for the annual award given to the league's best player.
James' Lakers are heavy favorites to defend their NBA Finals title. The Clippers, Nets, Celtics, Nuggets, Mavericks, Warriors, Heat, Jazz, 76ers, Suns, Raptors, Rockets and Blazers are among the other title favorites.
First games for each team
Warriors at Nets at 7 p.m. EST on TNT
Clippers at Lakers at 10 p.m. EST on TNT
Wizards at 76ers at 7 p.m. EST
Heat at Magic at 7 p.m. EST
Hornets at Cavaliers at 7 p.m. EST
Knicks at Pacers at 7 p.m. EST
Bucks at Celtics at 7:30 p.m. EST on TNT
Pelicans at Raptors at 7:30 p.m. EST
Spurs at Grizzlies at 8 p.m. EST
Thunder at Rockets at 8 p.m. EST
Hawks at Bulls at 8 p.m. EST
Pistons at Timberwolves at 8 p.m. EST
Kings at Nuggets at 9 p.m. EST
Jazz at Trail Blazers at 10 p.m. EST
Mavericks at Suns at 10:30 p.m. EST on ESPN