CHRISTMAS START AS NBA LOCKOUT NEARS END

The NBA is set to begin its season on Christmas Day after the long-running dispute between the league and its players reached a resolution, 149 days into a lockout that saw both sides fight an often bitter war over their share of over £2 billion in annual revenues.

The new deal, settled early on Saturday morning after a further round of talks in New York, will see a shortened 66-game campaign begin on December 25 if the two sides ratify the final agreement later this week.

“We want to play basketball,” NBA commissioner David Stern said. It is thought that the players will now collectively receive just under half of the league’s turnover, a drop of seven per cent from the previous collective bargaining agreement.

Other issues, such as age limits and drug testing, will be discussed in a second round of talks on Sunday but are not expected to derail the discussions, multiple sources reported..

The accord will boost the competition at next summer’s Olympic Games with participating countries, including the USA, able to field their NBA players without the need to pay costly additional insurance premiums.

However the NBA’s two planned regular season games in London, scheduled for March between the Orlando Magic and the New Jersey Nets, could yet fall victim to the new compact fixture list with the ties expected to be cancelled.

The news will impact on the Euroleague and other European competitions with several major clubs set to lose the NBA players they had signed during the lockout – most of whom had agreed opt-outs in the event of a labour deal.

With training camps, and free agency, slated to open on December 9 it is likely most will play their final games overseas this weekend before returning to the USA and Canada.

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