The NBA players and owners have reached a tentative deal to end the league's months-long lockout and begin play by Christmas Day, but a few hurdles still remain to be cleared.
Both sides need to endorse the tentative agreement, leading to an official collective bargaining agreement and its eventual ratification. Both sides say they expect a resolution to come officially within the week.
"We've reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals. ... We're optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin on December 25 – Christmas Day – a triple-header," NBA Commissioner David Stern said Saturday. He didn't say which teams would play in the holiday games but added that it's expected there will be 66 games this season.
Derek Fisher, president of the National Basketball Players Association, thanked fans for their role during the 149-day lockout.
"Our fans and the support from the people and (their) patience through a large part of this process – that's where a lot of this credit goes to," Fisher said. "The efforts that have been made have been largely with them in mind."
And fans will certainly get their share of makeup games.
It will come in the form of some teams playing back-to-back games to fit their schedules in to the season. At least one pair of back-to-back games will be set for each team, the NBA said in a release breaking down the schedule. But no team will play more than three back-to-back-to-back games scheduled for the season, the league said. This frantic pace of quick turnarounds could also occur during the second round of the playoffs, the NBA said. And it could mean that some teams will have to stretch and make the most of their benches.
But whether some like that schedule setup or not, having players on the bench ready to jump into the game and onto the court to play after all these months seems to be all that matters to the teams, players and fans.
There's been a fair share of bickering, quibbling and criticism surrounding the lockout. It was agonizing for many Americans to watch people fight over millions while some workers employed by the teams faced losing health insurance and local businesses suffered losses without any games played.
At the center of the dispute behind the lockout was the debate over how much of the league's revenue share should go to players, including for pensions and medical benefits, something their union funded in the past. Other thorny issues were the soft salary cap and the luxury tax. A hard cap does not allow teams to exceed the salary cap for any reason, whereas a soft cap lets teams exceed the cap to retain a player under the so-called Larry Bird rule. The luxury tax kicks in when teams exceed the soft cap by a certain amount.
Certainly, when the season tipoff begins, many fans will be happy to no longer hear about all these business details but just be glad to see players finally getting down to the business of playing ball.
Regular season start date: December 25
Regular season end date: April 26
Playoffs start date: April 28
Last possible finals date: June 26
Conference games: 48
• Play six teams four times (two home, two away)
• Play four teams three times (two home, one away)
• Play four teams three times (one home, two away)
Nonconference games: 18
• Play three teams two times (one home, one away)
• Play six teams one time at home
• Play six teams one time away
Back-to-back-to-backs: All teams will have at least one but no more than three.
Playoff back-to-backs: Possible in second round