The Lockout is Over - Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas

In a previously unknown manifestation of the CipperSteve reverse mojo, apparently by ignoring the lockout, I was able to end it. You're welcome.

You probably noticed that since the player's union disclaimed interest and dissolved almost two weeks ago, I had crawled into a hole. I haven't written a post since then, because I just didn't want to. The nonsense had worn me out. I won't say I didn't care, because I did care. But I couldn't say anything more about it. I had said everything I had to say. I mean, other than the idiosyncrasies of US Labor law, there wasn't anything new to write about anyway. The basic issues of the lockout, and in fact the basic solution in the end, hadn't changed significantly in at least two months.

So I got to spend a nice Thanksgiving at my brother's house with all my family, and even hung out there doing nothing on Friday. I took my laptop with me, but didn't crack it open a single time.

And now it's finally over, and apparently we're going to have NBA basketball by Christmas, which will be here in the blink of an eye, especially when you consider all of the things that have to happen in the interim.

Training camps are scheduled to open on December 9th, leaving the lawyers a little less than two weeks to get from handshake agreement to ratified CBA - no small feat, when you consider that officially there isn't even a union as of today. Free agency will also begin on the 9th - which means that coaches will begin camp with only a portion of their teams as GM's scramble to fill in roster gaps at the last minute. For some teams, that will be a relatively minor issue. The Clippers will open camp with twelve players, including their two second round picks, but not including DeAndre Jordan, who hopefully will be joining them soon after the 9th. The Celtics on the other hand will go to camp with about six players, at least until Danny Ainge can sign a few more bodies for Doc Rivers.

That is not to say that Neil Olshey doesn't have some work to do for the Clippers between now and the start of the season. They have most of their roster set, but there is still one gaping hole at small forward, another big action item with Jordan's contract, and any number of other opportunities. The muddy will become even muddier as the latest amnesty clause becomes a reality - we don't even know who all the free agents will be at this point, and it's entirely possible that some of the most intriguing ones will come from the amnesty ranks.

If camps indeed open on the 9th, and the season actually starts on Christmas day, that leaves a smidge over two weeks for everything that has to happen in free agency and training camp. While a compressed season may provide a slight advantage to the Clippers with their young legs, the absence of a proper training camp is surely a disadvantage. With a roster heavily dependent on players still learning the game, coach Vinny Del Negro will surely lament the loss of extended teaching time.

There's no official word yet on what a 66 game season will look like, but I have a theory. With a league made up of six five team divisions grouped into two 15 team conferences, I suspect that the schedule will feature two games each against the 25 non-conference foes, and four games each against four division rivals: 50 plus 16 equals 66. That's what I would do anyway. If they don't allow every team to play every other team twice, then by definition they would be saying that a top team (say for instance, Miami) would not travel to every other NBA city. The league is so superstar driven at this point, I'd hate to be the NBA scheduler who had to explain to an NBA owner that he didn't get to host LeBron and friends for a guaranteed sell out this season. It should be noted that the league went a different direction in the 50 game season in 1999 - designing conference heavy schedules with very few inter-conference games, presumably to limit travel. It's possible they'll do something similar this time as well. However, remember that with only 50 games in 1999, it was impossible to play every other team twice - there were 29 teams at the time, so that would have required at least 56 games. I think given the opportunity to let every team play every other team twice they will do so. It will require more travel, but it's the fairest way to build a 66 game schedule.

The details of the agreement are trickling in. I'm not going to get into it all right now - maybe later. Suffice it to say that it made zero sense to lose a season (or games, for that matter) over the issues that were keeping the sides apart. The compromises that have facilitated a handshake are the kinds of things that should have happened long ago.

Which brings me to the question of leverage. Throughout the process, the owners behaved as if they had all of it, which of course they did. Bargaining from a position of power, they weren't really bargaining at all. They simply sat on their offer and waited for the players to cave. It almost worked; the players gave in a lot of points, particularly on the revenue split, which to me is fair and away the biggest single issue. By disclaiming interest in the union and dissolving it, the players were able to file an anti-trust lawsuit against the league. This created, at long last, some leverage for the players. Faced with the uncertainty of a anti-trust litigation as an alternative, the owners finally bargained in good faith, for the first time in over two years. And a five month old lockout was resolved in two days.

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