NEW YORK — These are the kinds of negotiations NBA fans have been waiting for.
Teams began talking to agents Wednesday as the lockout inched closer to its end, and basketball moved back into focus. Dwight Howard and Chris Paul were linked to trade speculation, while free agents such as Tyson Chandler and Nene were in the news after months of attorneys getting all the ink.
Now, the players are taking over and the league was set to reopen its facilities for workouts today.
Some might arrive out of shape, just as was the case in January 1999 after the NBA’s only other shortened season. But they’re anxious to get back, with a little more than three weeks until they start playing games.
The league still hopes to open training camps and free agency next Friday, leaving both sides scrambling to get business finished in time.
The lawsuits have been settled, contingent upon the ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement by Dec. 9. Players are in the process of collecting the signatures needed to approve the reformation of the union, which must be done before the sides can resume bargaining on the remaining issues that must be settled before each side can vote.
NBA officials are working to complete a two-game exhibition schedule for each team that will lead to a 66-game regular season, starting with a five-game slate on Christmas.
The lockout began July 1, which would have been the opening of free agency. It finally arrived in a minimized form Wednesday morning, when teams were allowed to talk to agents.
Jamal Crawford, the former top sixth man from Atlanta, is available for teams seeking backcourt scoring punch, but the class isn’t spectacular, which is why the focus was already on next summer, when Howard, Paul and Deron Williams can become free agents.
There were reports that Paul planned to leave New Orleans, and that the teams were angling to trade for him. Nets general manager Billy King denied an ESPN.com report that he was preparing to offer Brook Lopez and two first-round picks to Orlando in hopes of getting Howard to play with Williams.