At approximately 3 a.m. early Saturday morning, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com sent out the tweet for which we have all been waiting. Berger was first to report the story after the announcement was made of a joint press conference. NBA Commissioner David Stern said at the press conference that the plan was to play the first games of a shortened 66-game season on December 25th. The originally scheduled triple header of Mavericks-Heat, Lakers-Bulls and Knicks-Celtics will likely remain the Christmas Day lineup. It is being reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that some veteran players may vote against the proposed agreement, but it will pass regardless. Judging by the reaction of the players on twitter, including this gem by Kevin Durant, I’d say Mr. Wojnarowski is correct. The deal must still be officially approved by the owners and players, but assuming the vote goes smoothly, the NBA timeline will look something like this: Saturday, Nov. 26th – Friday, Dec. 9th: The players’ union no longer exists, so the players must reform their union before the vote can take place. Reforming the union should not take long at all because the union disclaimed its interest rather than the alternative (decertification). The players must withdraw their antitrust lawsuits, show proof that a majority of the players support reforming the union, file some paperwork, and BOOM the union is back.
The agreement only needs a simple majority to pass – 50% +1 vote for the players and 15 out 29 owners (the NBA owns the Hornets and its vote). Although dissent will be voiced from some players and owners, in all likelihood the deal will be approved this weekend or early next week. Meanwhile, the high powered lawyers for each side will be working feverishly during the next two weeks to put the new Collective Bargaining Agreement into writing. Both sides expect this process to be completed by December 9th. December 9th: Once the CBA is in place, free agency and training camp will begin. The free agency period will be crazy. Not only will it be condensed and rushed, but also the general managers must sign free agents after a crash course of the new CBA provisions. Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com is reporting some of the specifics of the deal. At first glance, the changes don’t seem too overwhelmingly different from the past CBA, but the changes will definitely shift some decision-making on behalf of teams. For a list of the top free agents, read this article on Sheridanhoops.com. Players that have signed overseas contracts will exercise their opt-out clauses and begin making their way back to the States. I even anticipate the players that signed contracts in China without opt-out clauses to be “released” by their respective teams; however, that remains to be seen. Also, I expect many reports over the next two weeks about certain players who are extremely out of shape. Conditioning will be a problem in training camps and likely entering the season. Hopefully this will not affect the quality of play, but it likely will for some teams. As we saw in the NFL this season, the short preparation period will likely result in more injuries than normal. December 25th: It is assumed that there will not be any preseason games. The season will begin with the regularly scheduled Christmas Day games. However, the NBA will likely announce a completely reworked schedule for the remaining season. Many division games were canceled, so in order to have a fair playoff seeding system, the schedule will be largely different. This is good news for fans. Remember that Thunder-Lakers game we all missed on opening night? It will likely be played, albeit on a different day and time. The regular season, which normally ends in the middle of April, will now be pushed back to the end of April to accommodate the 66-game schedule. Teams usually play 82 games in 5 ½ months. This season, teams will play 66 games in just over 4 months. NBA fans that were yearning for basketball, you are going to get all you can handle. If you are a season ticket holder, you might want to think about getting a condo downtown near your arena. You will feel like you are living at the arena. Many more back-to-backs will be played. Even a few back-to-back-to-backs will be on the schedule. — That is the basic rundown of what to expect over the next few weeks. Once details are released on the new CBA, I plan to write a thorough breakdown of the new provisions and how they will affect the league going forward. The best news of the night was the end of the lockout, but lost in the jubilation was the news that we don’t have to worry about another lockout until 2018. The tentative agreement calls for a 10-year CBA with an opt-out clause after the sixth season. There is plenty of blame to go around for the mess that played out over the past several months. The great news is that the two sides have reached an agreement and can begin mending relationships. The most important relationship the league and the players must mend would be the one between its fans. No doubt the relationship with the fans was damaged. However, the timing of this deal creates an opportunity to heal much of the damage. America does not multi-task sports very well. Most casual NBA fans are wrapped up in the compelling NFL season and the BCS National Championship drama. By the time college football is wrapping up on January 9th, NBA will be in full swing. A Christmas Day start does wonders for salvaging the momentum that has been created over the past several seasons. Now let’s play some basketball!