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By Gus Bode

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why: Santa Claus has come to town early with the key that will free the NBA’s 2011-12 lockout season.

NBA owners and players reached a tentative agreement early Nov. 26 to end the 149-day lockout. Instead of its regular 88-game season, the league planned a 66-game season and aims to open training camps Friday. This was the NBA’s second shortened lockout season since 1998-99 when the schedule was reduced to 50 games, according to an ESPN report.

The season will begin Christmas Day when the Boston Celtics play the New York Knicks. Miami will play at Dallas before MVP Derrick Rose and Chicago climax the triple-header against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Oklahoma City Thunder will also face the Orlando Magic, and the Los Angeles Clippers will contend the Golden State Warriors.

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“We want to play basketball,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said in an ESPN report.

NBA Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter said that he is excited on behalf of owners, players and fans that an agreement was reached to ensure the NBA season jumpstarts, according to the NBA’s website.

“We thought it was in both of our interests to try to reach a resolution and save the game and to be able to provide the mind of superb entertainment the NBA historically has provided,” Hunter said. “We’re very pleased we’ve come this far.”

Many NBA players are no longer overwhelmed by the situation and have responded as if a huge weight has lifted from their shoulders. They’re ready to begin the moment they’ve waited for all year — to play ball.

“All I feel right now is ‘finally’,” Dwyane Wade said to the Associated Press.

Paul Chancey, a senior studying radio-television and a Chicago Bulls fan, said he appreciates the agreement coming to an end.

“I’m glad it’s over, since we don’t have to deal with the drama anymore,” Chancey said.

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Similarly, Brandon Rosenbloom, a junior from Chicago studying journalism, said it’s absurd how long it took for professionals to reach an agreement, but he’s glad they finally did.

“The lockout has ended for one reason only: So Derrick Rose can win back-to-back MVP awards,” Rosenbloom said.

Miranda Gurley, a sophomore from Chicago studying rehabilitation services, said she’s an avid basketball watcher and TV has missed something during the lockout.

“I’m usually trying to either catch a game or reality TV show,” Gurley said. “My favorite team is the Bulls because I think they had a really good season last year, and I was hoping to see them have an even better season this year.”

While Wade and other players wait for Christmas day, there are players who won’t be returning to the league.

Players who anticipated an agreement not being reached with NBA owners considered the Chinese Basketball Association, and those confident of a non-existent NBA season signed with the CBA. Some of the players are now unable to breach contracts they’ve signed that hold them until March, which is near the end of the NBA’s regular season.

Gurley said she sympathizes for players such as Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Yi Jianlian, Aaron Brooks, Patty Mills and others who agreed to play in China. Now, their future is uncertain.

“I’m sad that some players won’t be returning because the (veterans) are what make basketball interesting to watch,” Gurley said.

But the countdown has begun as 20 days remain until the moment fans and players have been waiting for:  tip-off.

 

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