NBA owners, players reach tentative 10-year deal; season to start Christmas Day

nba-season-savedSportsbooks around the world are rejoicing at the news that there will be a 2011/12 National Basketball Association season – at least, three-fourths of one. A marathon haggling session in Manhattan on Saturday between owners and player reps produced a tentative deal to put on a 66-game season. The season would start on Christmas Day (subtle, people… very subtle) and extend through April, pushing the playoffs and final series a week later than usual. The league’s 29 owners are expected to approve the 10-year deal (although either party has the option to scuttle the deal after six-years) as soon as Monday. If the NBA’s 430 players can put down their pistols and blunts long enough to raise their hands and vote ‘aye,’ training camps and free agency will commence Dec. 9.

Details of the deal are scant and there are issues yet to be decided, including drug testing and the age limit for rookies. But the owners have been playing up certain aspects – revenue-sharing and making it more difficult for 10-year veteran free agents to sign deals earning them the maximum six-year, $112m salary – as proof that the league is doing its best to mimic National Football League-style parity between small- and major-market franchises.

Perhaps the biggest winner of this deal is the basketball fan, who not only gets to watch the game he/she loves, but no longer has to endure the whine-fest from stupendously wealthy owners and players over who was the bigger victim in the 149-day long labor impasse. And while poker players in the US aren’t likely to get the online poker legislation they were hoping for this Christmas, Saint Nick will be presenting sportsbook operators with a serious boost to their overall handle come Dec. 25. Basketball is a globally popular wagering sport – second only to football in China, thanks to Yao Ming – and the abbreviated season means an average of two more games per month than in normal years. O tidings of comfort and joy…