NBA lockout over, games to begin on Christmas Day

Let there be NBA basketball.

After a 15-hour meeting that lasted into the wee hours of Saturday morning, the NBA owners and players reached a handshake agreement, ending the 149-day lockout.

“We want to play basketball,” NBA commissioner David Stern said.

Pending ratification by both the players and the owners, the league is planning on a 66-game season that kicks off on Christmas with the Celtics at Knicks, Heat at Mavericks and Bulls at Lakers. Training camp and free agency are both slated to start on December 9.

Both sides must have counted their blessings over Thanksgiving and realized the lockout wasn’t one of them, as just 12 days ago David Stern said the league was headed for a “nuclear winter.”

The union had disbanded and a cancelled season seemed likely. But the players’ contingent – Billy Hunger, Derek Fisher, Maurice Evans, attorney Ron Klempner and economist Kevin Murphy – and the owners’ regime – Stern, Adam Silver, Spurs owner Peter Holt, and attorneys Rick Buchanan and Dan Rube – held secret meetings earlier in the week and ultimately came to the tentative agreement that’s in place.

“We thought it was in both of our interests to try to reach a resolution and save the game and to be able to provide the kind of superb entertainment the NBA historically has provided,” Hunter said.

Although the agreement has been made and a 66-game season is on the horizon, there are some hurdles before everything is set in stone.

“We’re very pleased we’ve come this far,” Stern said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

The owners need a majority vote from its 29 members, while the union needs the same from its 430-plus members. The players also have to drop their antitrust lawsuit and reform their union prior to voting.

Smaller issues like the draft, NBA age limit, and drug testing still have to be discussed. But the larger issues have been solved, and ESPN’s Chris Broussard tweeted that the players accepted a 49-51 BRI split.

So what does this mean for the Phoenix Suns?

At first glance, it means what it does for every team – they finally get to play basketball again. But there are a few moving pieces to consider.

First, the Suns will definitely be without Aaron Brooks until February 15 at the earliest, as he signed with Chinese Basketball Association defending champion Guangdong. The CBA regular season lasts until mid-February, while the playoffs go into March, meaning Brooks’ free agency will most likely go into 2012.

Gani Lawal has been tearing it up in Poland, but unlike Brooks, he will be able to return to the Suns. The remainder of the Suns’ roster is still in the States, and will be able to get back to work on Dec. 9.

Since chemistry is a major barometer for success in Phoenix, one could argue that less time together could hurt a team like the Suns. But the majority of the roster has experience playing together, and a shorter season could go a long way toward perserving the health of Steve Nash and Grant Hill.

Those issues will come to light as the season progresses. But the sole fact that there is an NBA season is reason to rejoice in Phoenix and across the rest of the country.

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Tags: Nba Lockout

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