NBA owners, players reach handshake deal to start season Dec. 25

With Christmas Day games hanging in the balance because of the five-month old lockout, the NBA owners and players reached a handshake labor agreement to begin free agency and training camps Dec. 9 and start the 2011-12 season on Dec. 25.

In a joint press conference following Friday's 16-hour negotiating session, which went into early Saturday morning, the two sides announced the breakthrough that, for NBA fans, is a long time coming. And despite the hard rhetoric from commissioner David Stern, who said the NBA was heading towards a "nuclear winter," when the players disbanded from the union and filed lawsuits against the league on Nov. 14, both parties were able to "compromise" with a 66-game season on the horizon.

"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 and that the NBA season will begin Dec. 25 -- Christmas Day -- with a tripleheader," Stern told reporters in New York.

Added players' union president and L.A. Lakers guard Derek Fisher: "Our fans and the support from the people and (their) patience through a large part of this process -- that's where a lot of this credit goes to. The efforts that have been made have been largely with them in mind. So, with that being said, there's a lot of work left to be done."

Some of that work will simply be the formalities of the deal, such as both sides officially ratifying the new collective bargaining agreement. The union, which first has to reassemble, needs a majority of its membership of roughly 450 players, while the NBA requires votes from 15 of 29 owners.

"I think it was the ability of the parties to decide it was necessary to compromise and put to try and put this thing together in some kind of way," union executive director Billy Hunter said. "... It was in both of our interest to try and reach a resolution."

Many players around the league turned to Twitter to voice their pleasure of finally reaching an agreement with the owners. Here's what Chicago Bulls players were saying. (Tweets may be slightly edited for clarity.)

"My dream is here! Now let's get going," said rookie Jimmy Butler, whom the Bulls selected with the 30th overall pick in June's draft.

"Let's get it back to action. Woke up to good news!!!!!" backup point guard C.J. Watson posted.

Replying to Watson's tweet, forward Luol Deng said: "Can't wait man. Bench mob, we back."

Last but not least, Bulls forward Carlos Boozer tweeted: "Woke Up To Some Amazing News!!!"

Although schedules for the NBA's teams will change, it's likely the star-studded Christmas Day tripleheader -- Boston Celtics at New York Knicks, Miami Heat at Dallas Mavericks in a rematch of last season's NBA Finals and Bulls at Lakers -- will remain as planned. Not a bad way to begin the season, right?

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