By Matt Moore
The season is saved, long live the season. With that, we thought we'd give you a run down on where everything is at with regards to the season that will most likely be.
How did we get here?
Do you mean how did the season get saved or how did we lose so much of it in the first place? The answer to the latter is a simple "greed." The owners wanted not only to make up for their losses, but to make a point to the players about who's in charge of this league and control the players' ability to team up and form "super teams." They accomplished their goal for the most part.
As to how the season was saved, David Stern got the owners to move back on a half-dozen issues systemically while gifting the players an extra 1.2 percent of BRI. That differential was enough for the players' leadership, who saw an opportunity to save some face after getting clocked for five months on the financial, litigous, and PR fronts.
That lead toa handshake deal that has lead everyone to believe there will be a 2011-2012 season.
As we outlined in the FAQ, there's still a very small chance this thing falls through. Currently the league and the players' reps are negotiating what have been termed the "B-issues." If any of those B-issues suddenly become A-issues, one side or the other could walk away from the handshake deal. Those issues include the age limit, the use of the D-League, and drug testing policies. These are not issues that the players are apathetic towards. They're simply not nearly as important as the money and system issues already resolved.
It's expected that the issues will be resolved through negotiation sometime between Monday and Wednesday. Then the NBPA will reform as a union, which to do so all they have to do is say they are. Then they'll vote on the deal. The league will take its offer to the Board of Governors' Labor Relations Committee, who has driven this horse, and get their approval. From there the vote goes to the entire Board of Governors, where a simple majority is needed to approve. The league only needs 15 owners to approve the deal, as New Orleans will likely either abstain or be counted with the majority.
The reality is that this deal would not have been agreed to by either side if there was a legitimate chance of it failing in a vote, but it is unlikely there will be unanimous votes on either side.
Well, we're having one, so that's nice. It's going to be a 66 game season, with 48 in-conference games and 16 out-of-conference games. It's going to be rushed, it's going to be super compact, it's going to be ugly. The league is pushing the end of the regular season (and subsequently the start of the playoffs) by two weeks. There will be back-to-back-to-back games. Yikes. For more on the schedule, check out our post on the leaked details. Training camp will start December 9th, then there will be two preseason games and then the season opens on Christmas Day.
Free agency and roster upgrades
For starters, check out our top 40 free agents, that'll give you a good idea of who's available. The Pacers, Nets, and Rockets look to be big spenders in a weak class, but there are some interesting wrinkles. The New York Times reports that teams could be hesitant to use their amnesty clauses this season. Those that do however, will be putting big contracts up for grabs. Teams can claim all or part of the contract from the original team, but only if they are under the cap. So if the Kings feel like they just have to have Baron Davis... but it's unlikely.
The major changes to the salary and tax structure don't take place until 2013, so your favorite big-market teams will still have an opportunity to add to their rosters using the Mid-Level Exception.
Teams will be hording space for 2012, though, in what will be the dominant story of the year... next year's free agency class which features Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, and Chris Paul. It should be noted the new CBA does allow for extend-and-trades so those players could force their way out sooner, but the extend-and-trade can only be for three years, not the full five years allowed for Bird rights. The only way around this would be to agree to a trade six months prior to the date the player could be traded, in which case the original team could extend the player for the full five years, then trade him six months later. That's never, ever going to happen due to the number of things that could occur in that span of time.
The European Connection
There are a number of players playing overseas during the lockout. Those players have already started to come back, with Deron Williams among others already flying back. Others will not be joining us. Marginal players like Acie Law, Joey Dorsey, and others have no opt-out clause in their contract and will finish the season overseas, barring a release. There is much speculation that Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith, and Kenyon Martin will have to finish their seasons in China due to the ban on opt-out clauses by the CBA. But the most likely scenario is those players simply being released and making their way back to the states. Do you really think any of those players is missing out on NBA money? Martin may stay, as his NBA career is nearly at its end.
Andrew Bynum will miss the first five games of the season due to suspsension for jacking J.J. Barea.
Charlie Villanueva is also suspended four games for a fight at the end of last season.