Carmelo Anthony’s return to Denver is delayed for another year. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade won’t be visiting Sacramento anytime soon. Fans in Chicago will only be seeing Kobe Bryant on television this season.

The NBA sought competitive balance. What it got was schedule imbalance.

One of the many consequences of the lockout, besides hundreds of lost games and hundreds of millions of lost dollars, was the tradition that every team plays in every NBA city at least once per season. That’s not the case this year.

While teams will visit every other team in their conference, they will only make trips to play nine clubs from the other side of the league instead of the usual 15.

It’s one of many quirks of a 66-game schedule that, in a variety of ways, is not like any other in NBA history.

“In some cases, the team business-type might complain that they didn’t get (to host) the Heat or the Lakers,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said. “While in the background the coach is doing cartwheels. So it’s kind of an interesting dynamic.”

There’s no shortage of those.

Kevin Durant, the reigning scoring king, dropped 66 points in New York earlier this year — alas, at Rucker Park, the fabled outdoor court and not Madison Square Garden. He and Oklahoma City won’t be going to play the Knicks this season.

The NBA champion Dallas Mavericks won’t be going to Charlotte, nor will Durant’s Thunder, Bryant’s Lakers or the Spurs, and that will hurt ticket sales.

Teams won’t be playing the same number of divisional games, so get ready for complaining should tiebreakers come into play when determining playoff seeding. And many small-market teams will miss out on some guaranteed sellouts against elite clubs that might hurt in the standings but help with the bottom line.

“That’s what happens when you have a lockout,” Durant said.

When Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy heard the league was putting together a 66-game schedule instead of the usual 82, he figured the breakdown was simple: Play every team in your division four times, then face every other team home and away.

That seemed easy enough.

Instead it’s complicated.

“I’m not being critical of it,” Van Gundy said. “They’ve got a short period of time to play 66 games and there were a lot of factors they had to consider, and I’m sure that they did it the best way that they could.”

True, but there is some zaniness.

Atlanta takes a trip that has the Hawks going north, then south, then north, then west, then east, then west and then home again, all in nine days. Cleveland has a nine-game February homestand. San Antonio goes nearly four weeks without a home game, as it does each year because the rodeo takes over the arena. The Kings close the first half of their schedule with 20 of 28 away from Sacramento, daunting for a team desperate to keep fans engaged while trying to get a new arena. Denver plays nine straight at home in one stretch, then hits the road for seven straight.

But there’s no Anthony homecoming in Denver.

“Did it bother me? Not really,” said Anthony, now with the Knicks. “I mean, I would love to go back and play there. The reaction I would get, who knows? I might get some boos, I might get some claps, but it would have been fun.”

Minnesota Coach Rick Adelman was thrilled to see his club open with 6 of 7 at home. And then he saw who those early opponents were — the first four clubs to visit are Oklahoma City, Miami, Dallas and San Antonio.

CAVALIERS: Maine Red Claws guard Kenny Hayes was one of the two players released by Cleveland, which trimmed its roster to 15.

The Cavaliers also waived guard Manny Harris, who missed training camp because of a burned foot.

Hayes averaged 20.3 points and 5.8 assists in four games for the Red Claws before attending Cleveland’s camp. He’ll be eligible to rejoin the Red Claws if he isn’t claimed by another NBA team.

76ERS: Red Claws guard Antonio Anderson and center Mike Tisdale were among four players waived by Philadelphia. Both will be eligible to return to the Red Claws if they clear NBA waivers.

JAZZ-NETS: Utah traded center Mehmet Okur to New Jersey for a future second-round draft pick.

The Nets will be without their center and leading scorer, Brook Lopez, for a couple months because of a broken right foot.

HEAT: The team owner, Micky Arison, said he voted against passing the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement.

Arison said it was a protest vote primarily in response to the way revenue-sharing components of the deal will be structured. He is the second owner to reveal he voted against the CBA, joining Mark Cuban of Dallas.

SUNS: Phoenix waived swingman Mickael Pietrus after reaching a financial agreement.

The move lowered Phoenix’s roster to 14 players.


HAWKS 92, BOBCATS 75: Josh Smith scored 14 of his 21 points in the first half, and Atlanta won at home.

The Hawks split two preseason games with the Bobcats, losing 79-77 on the road Monday night.