MIAMI — No, the NBA lockout is not over. Not yet, but soon — once owners and players approve the deal that would have NBA games resume on Christmas Day. Here's a look at some of the most prevalent questions about the state of things in the league right now.
Q: What happened to get this deal done?
A: As one person involved in the talks told The Associated Press, "sanity prevailed." Neither side was winning. Owners were losing money. Players were losing money. Fans were getting angry. Because Christmas is traditionally the day when the public really start watching NBA games, there was a late push to try and salvage the Dec. 25 schedule.
Q: So it's done?
A: Well, no. There's still a slew of issues to work through, and then there's the not-so-small matter of having owners and players actually vote on the deal. Though the deal's expected to be approved, it won't be unanimous as there are factions of hard-liners in both camps who will be unhappy with substantive portions of the deal.
Q: How could union chief Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher "negotiate" with the NBA if the players' union had been disbanded?
A: When players dissolved the union that meant Hunter and Fisher no longer had the power to negotiate and agree to terms for the players. What could happen and what did happen with the NBA, as it did with the NFL this summer, is that lawyers and representatives for both sides can hold discussions under the guise of antitrust settlement talks. Hunter is an attorney. He knew the rules and the risks. Certainly, this could have blown up for the players and risked their antitrust lawsuit in Minnesota.
Q: What happens to that lawsuit?
A: Barring something crazy, the players will ask that it be dismissed. The league also must dismiss its New York lawsuit about the legality of the lockout.
Q: When will training camp start?
A: Dec. 9. Free agency is expected to begin then, too, meaning some locker rooms may as well start getting revolving doors installed now.
Q: And the first games?
A: The league wants three games on Christmas Day, and it's a safe bet the previously scheduled matchups — Boston at New York, Miami at Dallas in a finals rematch, and Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers — will go on as planned. The Dec. 26 schedule and beyond? Get out your erasers. A lot will be changing.
Q: I don't understand. If there's deal, why is nothing happening for two weeks?
A: Clearly, you're not an attorney. Only the framework of a deal is in place. Now the rules, the language, the nuances, they all must be put to paper by the lawyers who will be charged with actually writing the new collective bargaining agreement. Until that's done, no players can be signed, traded, etc., since there are still no real operating rules by which teams would have to abide.
Q: How will the schedule work?
A: Still unclear. The easiest way to fill a 66-game schedule would have teams play four games against each divisional opponent (16 games) and two games against every other team in the league (50 games). It would also ensure that every team makes at least one appearance in every league arena, which is what fans would want anyway. A season without Kobe Bryant going to Madison Square Garden? Not happening.
Q: Will there be preseason games?
A: A person involved with the process tells The AP there will be, but details are still getting hammered out. (A good guess would have teams playing two games, probably against a nearby rival.) It's a strong possibility that those games will have reams of low-priced tickets, a gesture of apologizing to fans for the delay in getting basketball going again.
Q: What about the players who signed overseas? Can they come home?
A: In most cases, yes. New Jersey guard Deron Williams said on Twitter early Saturday that he would soon be leaving his Turkish club Besiktas. That team will not be thrilled to see him leave — Williams had a 50-point game a few days ago. Some players who signed deals with Chinese clubs may have to work a bit harder (or, well, pay) to escape those contracts.
Q: What happens to these scheduled charity games, such as the "Homecoming Tour" featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, or Mario Chalmers' game in Alaska on Dec. 1?
A: Organizers were working Saturday to salvage at least some of them. Wade said he wanted to use the planned four-game tour he's involved with as a way to play competitive basketball before the season, even though he didn't know at the time when the season will begin. Although most players are in great shape, there's a big difference between that and "game shape." Frankly, a two-week training camp might not be enough time to get them there, either.
Key points to the tentative agreement to end the NBA lockout
NBA owners and players have reached a tentative agreement to end the 149-day lockout and plan to begin the delayed season on Christmas Day.
Here are some highlights:
* The deal: Largely completed around 3 a.m. EST Saturday, then announced. More details still must be tackled including dismissing all pending lawsuits, making the National Basketball Players Association an actual union again and voting by both the players and owners to ratify the agreement.
Key dates: Dec. 9 (free agency opens, camps open), Dec. 25 (games begin).
Owners' biggest win: Reducing the players' guarantee of basketball-related income to no higher than 51 percent after they received 57 percent under the previous collective bargaining agreement. With each BRI point worth about $40 million based on last season's revenues, that's a swing of at least $240 million annually, erasing most of what owners said were $300 million in losses last season.
Owners' biggest loss: The NFL style hard cap and non-guaranteed contracts they sought. The system is in fact similar to the old one, just with harsher luxury tax penalties to limit spending.
Players' biggest win: The preservation of the midlevel exception — though in a reduced form — and various trade rules for teams over the luxury tax, keeping the biggest market teams in the running to bid for them, even if they can't pay as much as they used to.
Players' biggest loss: Money. They're transferring more than $1 billion in salary and benefits to owners in the first six years of the deal.
What's next: Look for talks early this week on a preseason schedule, the dismissal or settlement of pending lawsuits, then movement toward getting the entire CBA written.
The Associated Press