There is nothing magical about the number 82. It did not arrive by burning bush. It exists because owners claim they need that many games to maintain current revenue streams and recoup the money they spend on salaries. But a better product could make for a better bottom line. In the past Stern has waved away cries for a shorter season. This, however, is what he had to say recently about what took place in 2011--12: "It's been a good year, surprisingly good for us in terms of all the metrics that we use: television viewership, attendance, merchandise sales. Much better than I think we had a right to expect, but we'll take it because it's a lot of fun."
There's no reason to think that the NBA wouldn't continue to be both productive and fun with a 66-game schedule, which might prove better for players' health in the long run. If Christmas is a little too late for the opening tip-off, well, so be it. But we've never needed a nine-month season. Give us 66 and a later start once again, NBA, and we won't even consider it re-gifting.