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Christmas Day start hinges on success of renewed talks

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com
Posted Nov 23 2011 3:37PM - Updated Nov 23 2011 4:33PM

• Hang Time: Holiday hope

The possibility of hammering out a lockout settlement in time to begin a shortened 2011-12 NBA season on Christmas Day hinges on negotiations that began Tuesday and continued Wednesday, sources familiar with the talks told NBA.com.

All contact between the parties currently is being orchestrated by lawyers, as a result of the players' decision to dissolve their union and file an antitrust lawsuit in federal court against the NBA and its team owners. The talks that were initiated this week, with former NFL and NBA labor attorney Jim Quinn as a reported go-between, would technically serve to settle the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. The talks were first reported Wednesday by Yahoo! Sports.

Getting the litigation unraveled and -- with the union re-formed -- using a settlement as the framework for a new collective bargaining agreement by Christmas still is possible. "Theoretically," one of the league sources said Wednesday afternoon.

Back-channel talks of various forms have been taking place "for a while now," though the parties have tried to keep that quiet, another source said. Peter Holt, chairman of the NBA's labor relations committee that oversaw CBA negotiations with the now-former-union, was in New York on Tuesday.

David Boies, the antitrust litigator heading the players' case against the lockout -- or "group boycott," as alleged in the suit -- told reporters Monday that there had been no contact between the parties. But he said after the news conference that "it couldn't hurt for me to call [NBA legal counsel Jeffrey Mishkin]. Ask me that Wednesday."

When contacted Wednesday, an NBA spokesman said only the league "remains in favor of a negotiated resolution" and declined to comment further.

NBA commissioner David Stern has said repeatedly that the league would need 30 days from a handshake deal to tipoff of the season's first games, both to finalize and ratify the paperwork and to conduct basketball business (free agency, training camps, possible exhibition games). That would suggest a deadline of Friday, Nov. 25, to save Christmas.

But with an intensified effort, sources said, the turnaround time could be tightened by several days to begin a shortened season on Christmas Day, which has become an annual highlight of the NBA schedule.

TNT's David Aldridge contributed to this report.

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