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 to 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 agent signings are expected to begin then, too, meaning some locker rooms may as well start installing revolving doors 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 a deal, why is nothing happening for two weeks?
A: 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 be for teams to 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 pending. (A good guess: Teams would play 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, like 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 would begin. Although most players are in great shape, there's a big difference between that and "game shape." A two-week training camp might not be enough time to get them there, either.