Philadelphia, PA – Black Friday really did offer up some amazing deals, the biggest of which came a little late when David Stern and Billy Hunter gift wrapped an NBA season with the instructions "do not open until Christmas" early Saturday morning.
After 149 days of often mind-numbing stubbornness from both sides, a marathon meeting lasting nearly 15 hours ended with the NBA owners and the disbanded players association reaching a tentative agreement to end the lockout, one that will likely result in a 66-game season that is expected to begin with a triple-header on Christmas Day.
"We thought it was in both of our best interests to try to reach a resolution and save the game," Hunter said.
While the new deal appears imminent, several hurdles still need to be cleared for the season to be salvaged. The league's Labor Relations committee must approve the deal and the NBPA is expected to reform and vote on the agreement, something that is expected in the coming days.
"We've reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations, but we're optimistic that will all come to pass," Stern said. "We expect our Labor Relations Committee to endorse this tentative agreement. We expect a CBA will arise out of this deal."
"We've reached a tentative litigation settlement," Hunter added. "We'll turn it over to the lawyers and work out all of the details. I'm confident we can get it done."
Details of the prospective new CBA weren't readily available but a condensed free agency period and training camps are reportedly set to begin simultaneously on Dec. 9 with tip-off just over two weeks later featuring the league's marquee teams on Christmas Day.
Barring a change in scheduling, the rebooted 2011-12 season will open with the Boston Celtics at New York Knicks in a refurbished Madison Square Garden, followed by Miami at Dallas in an NBA Finals rematch before closing with Chicago and reigning MVP Derrick Rose visiting Kobe Bryant's Lakers.
"We look forward to opening up on Christmas Day," NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said. "We're excited about bringing the NBA back. That is what's most important."
The NBA work stoppage has lasted nearly five months and the stakes were raised earlier this week when the players combined a pair of antitrust lawsuits against the NBA in two different states into the same court in Minnesota.
A suit filed last week in the Northern District of California, which included Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups among its plaintiffs, was discontinued without prejudice on Monday, according to court records.
Those players and several others were added to the lawsuit filed last week in a Minneapolis court, which included Caron Butler, Ben Gordon, Anthony Tolliver and would-be rookie Derrick Williams as plaintiffs.
Players were accusing the NBA and its teams of conducting an unlawful lockout and price-fixing arrangement.
Fans, on the other hand, were accusing the owners and players of playing the Grinch and attempting to steal their holiday season.
But, in this version of Whoville -- the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes on Black Friday.