If the NBA was smart, it would swoop collectively upon Dallas, claim the already-booked hotel space and tell Major League Baseball that, at this moment, they need winter meetings far more than any other sport.
In 2010, when the NBA actually had time to conduct an orderly free-agent process, most of the league found itself camped in Chicago. That’s where the Heat, Nets, Knicks, Bulls and other teams wined and dined Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer and other prime free agents, while also having planes at the ready for the quick flight to Cleveland for the LeBron-a-thon.
This time around, order has given way to bedlam. And while the Free Agent Class of 2011 pales in comparison to what 2010 had to offer, it is likely that there will be more than a few sight-unseen dollars spent Friday when free agency and camps open.
If they open.
As of the weekend, a pair of agents said they weren’t sold that the Friday would be the definitive starting point of the process, with a final collective-bargaining agreement still being completed and votes by the owners and players not scheduled until Thursday.
One of the agents said he has been told that if he wants to get his players in front of general managers and to work at the various sessions being conducted at NBA arenas, that the athletes or agents would have to pay such travel expenses out of pocket.
Considering how much has been done on the fly since an agreement in principle was reached Nov. 26, each day along the path to a lockout resolution seemingly has brought its own rules.
“Last week they said nothing is starting until Dec. 9 and all of a sudden they said, ‘Oh, at 9 a.m. tomorrow we’re open for business,’ ” the agent said of last Tuesday’s NBA change of heart when it came to free-agent negotiations. “I think the same thing is going to happen. I think they’re going to say you can fly guys there on the seventh and things are going to change. I think they’re going to give us direction.”
Some of that direction came with word that contact between coaches, executives and players could resume Monday. But, even then, workouts alongside coaches or in front of team executives remain off-limits until Friday.
In other words, players coming off injury, such as Dallas Mavericks free-agent forward Caron Butler or Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden, would have to be signed off medical records. For now, there can be no eye test before Friday.
With signings on hold until Friday, some teams are planning to drain D-League rosters for what effectively could be considered training-camp “seat fillers,” players who will work for $1,500 a week during camp for the opportunity for some face time in front of NBA coaches.
What the NBA truly needs is its own version of the winter meetings, a high-priced whirlwind job fair to create a greater sense of order at week’s end.
That, of course, is not happening. Bud Selig isn’t giving up that Dallas hotel space.
“It’s going to be chaotic,” an agent said.
Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.