Based on the slow-go turn in lockout negotiations, it is safe to say that we’re officially on the clock, a backwards timetable to the earliest-possible start to the NBA season.
Those involved in the process are virtually unanimous in a two-week timetable being necessary for agreement-into-final draft and then a union vote.
Conversations with others indicate that a one-week schedule for camp/exhibitions is feasible, if only because while rosters still have to be rounded out, there are a significant number of teams that not only have their starting lineups in place, but many of those lineups are the same that ended last season.
In some respects, the timing of this 2011 lockout could not have been better, with this having already set up as an offseason of continuity for many teams.
But what about free agency, a process that normally runs for three months, a typically measured, methodical approach by front offices?
Don’t overstate the process. A week sounds about right. And with most teams merely looking for complementary pieces, you conceivably could have a workable resumption even with teams fiddling with rosters through the opening days of the regular season.
Foremost, with a rookie wage scale already assured in a new agreement, draft picks could be signed immediately, as was the case even when the moratorium period was in place in previous agreements.
As for free agents, consider that in the last free-agent signing period, 15 players were signed on the opening day of free agency in 2010 and 44 in the first week of the process.
While an argument could be made that the seven-day signing moratorium positioned teams for such swift movement, an argument could be made that teams, in effect, this time already have had a three-month moratorium period to mull such considerations.
Further, while the previous agreement had the mid-level exception, bi-annual exception and all varieties of Bird Rights, the new agreement, one that at the least will have hard-cap characteristics, may have none of them.
In other words, agents won’t have as much ability or need to shop offers. There will be teams with cap space, teams with minimum-scale offers, and perhaps incumbent teams still with some sort of Bird Rights to retain their own free agents.
The reality is teams have had more than ample time for Plans A, B, C, all the way to the ones that forecast Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler to instead play in China.
Put it this way, one agent confided he already has a $4 million offer in place from a team for his middling swingman.
Which means either people already are talking, or plenty of advance work was set in motion before the July 1 onset of the lockout.
No, you’re not allowed to discuss such matters during a lockout. But you also were never allowed to discuss potential free-agency machinations prior to July 1 of any other year, and, well, we’ll leave that conspiracy conversation for those who want to revisit elements of LeBron, Wade, Bosh.
Basically, in the wake of slow-moving negotiations, there still can be a fast-moving free-agency process.
So while pondering those reverse calculations about how quickly meaningful games can be played upon an agreement, don’t overstate the personnel game.
Those plans are in much better shape than, apparently, any plan to actually end the lockout itself.