David Stern and Billy Hunter shook hands. Figuratively, but there is a handshake deal in place for an NBA labor settlement. The framework for a full blown new NBA collective bargaining agreement is in place.
But that is a long way from an actual signed deal and NBA games starting on Christmas Day.
So, what happens next?
First, the negotiations never stop. Stern and Hunter may get to sleep in for a day but the attorneys for the two sides will be meeting long hours over the next week to 10 days to hammer out the “B-List” issues. Those are things like the draft age, the drug testing program, who can be assigned to the D-League and a host of other issues that need to be resolved. The two sides don’t always agree on those things, but none are deal breakers. They horse-trade these items for a while.
Meanwhile, the players will ask to have their anti-trust lawsuit in Minnesota dismissed and the owners will ask to have their preemptive lawsuit in New York on decertification issues dismissed as well.
Not long after, the NBA players union will be reformed. Just as it was before. As if nothing had happened.
Eventually the deal will be finalized and put to separate votes of the players and the owners. In both cases the vote will not be unanimous, there are hardliners on both sides that think their side gave up too much. But in both cases a majority want games and can live with this deal, and barring some dramatic turn it will pass.
Right after that, team facilities will re-open to players and coaches can contact their charges and start talking about the season.
Then training camps will open on Dec. 9, the same day that maybe the most wild and frenzied free agency period in NBA history will open. The talent on the market this year is not what it was in years past, but teams will move fast to get their free agents in place and into camp working with their new teammates.
Then on Christmas Day — tip off.
And while this season promises to be a roller coaster, it will be much more fun than the ups and downs of the lockout.