51Q: Will the owners or players opt out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement by Dec. 15?

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We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For the past few weeks, and through the start of the NBA season, we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season.

Last September, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said the union and the NBA were negotiating on the Collective Bargaining Agreement and hoped to resolve their disagreements by season’s end. Well, the season came and went without a deal.

The next inflection point: Dec. 15.

That’s the deadline for either the players or owners to opt out of the CBA, effective June 30. If neither side opts out, the CBA will run through June 30, 2021.

Expect both sides to desire an opt out – if they haven’t preemptively reached an agreement by mid-December.

An influx of revenue from new national TV contracts and the league’s growing popularity have warped the system. The salary cap has escalated far more rapidly than anticipated, putting a lot of money into pockets on both sides, but not necessarily the right pockets.

At the same time, the money is real and big. If you’re getting rich, how likely are you to close the cash flow just because someone else is getting richer faster?

So much about these negotiations has always been waiting for the other side to blink first, which points to a longer standoff. Even if someone opts out in December, the owners and players will continue negotiating throughout the season. They could definitely reach a deal before an actual work stoppage on July 1 – or the standoff could last into the offseason.

There’s so much to discuss, including:

It’s a good thing negotiations began early. That and the money – so, so, so much money – gives hope of avoiding a lockout. NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Roberts would probably love to preempt any fretting by announcing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement before Dec. 15, but even if they can’t, it’s not the end of the world. A December opt out would just mandate continued negotiations.

So, Dec. 15 is not a time for panic no matter which, if either, side opts out. It’s just a deadline for the players and owners to show their progress.