Finally, the lockout is over. Finally, basketball is back !

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By BENNY R. LORIE

NBA players and owners announced in the wee hours of Saturday morning that they reached a handshake deal to end the lockout. Players and owners are expected to ratify the deal with a vote, and the season will begin on Christmas Day. The Heat will begin Year Two of the Big 3 against the Mavericks in Dallas’ American Airlines Center, site of Miami’s epic collapse in last season’s NBA Finals.

Reaction to the labor negotiations was met with stunned disbelief by at least one NBA owner Saturday. “I must be dreaming …,” tweeted Heat owner Micky Arison around 6:30 a.m.Heat star Dwayne Wade carried Arison’s fanciful prose a bit further, quoting a line from the late rapper Notorious B.I.G.: “It was all a dream.”

Most people were dreaming, literally, when NBA commissioner David Stern and NBPA executive director Billy Hunter emerged from a marathon meeting around 3 a.m. in New York to announce news that the season is likely saved.

Key figures of the negotiation process met for about 15 hours between Friday and Saturday to hammer out the deal. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement will give the players no less than 49 percent of the league’s Basketball Related Income and no more than 51 percent, meaning the owners will gain roughly $3 billion against the players compared with the previous CBA. Owners will be remembered for winning the lockout battle, but the players did receive a small victory on one system issue. Owners must spend 85 percent of the salary cap on team payroll in the first two years of the deal and 90 percent the three years after that. Similar to last season, the salary cap stands at $58 million, but a beefed up luxury tax is expected to curb spending by the league’s heavyweights and, in theory, add competitive balance to the league.

Bleary-eyed after the marathon meeting in New York, Stern indicated that the tentative agreement to end the lockout will hold up, “We’re optimistic that it will all come to pass and the NBA season will begin Dec. 25 Christmas Day with a triple header,” Stern said. The NBA’s shortened regular season will include 66 games, and free agency and training camp will begin on Dec. 9. After all the gloom-and-doom rhetoric, only 16 games of the regular season will be lost. Not bad considering casual NBA fans usually don’t begin following the season until Christmas.

The regular season and the NBA Finals will be pushed back one week to accommodate the new schedules.“The key thing here is our fans and the support from the people and the patience through a large part of the process,” NBPA president Derek Fisher said. “That’s where a large part of the credit goes to.”Like opening a gift from Santa, fans of the NBA will celebrate the league’s return on Christmas.

The Heat will headline the holiday, drama will be thick The Mavericks, which defeated the Heat in six games to claim their first NBA title, will receive their championship rings and raise their championship banner moments before tipoff.

The Heat have work to do. Point guard Mario Chalmers is a restricted free agent, and draft pick Norris Cole, the point guard from Cleveland State, must be signed. The Heat will also likely shop for a point guard or center with its midlevel exception.“I know right now everything is tentative, but it’s great news to get back to work and play basketball,” Cole said. “I’ve been trying to be patient and working out, and I’ve spent a lot of time at home with my family. I wasn’t used to living with my family because I was at college for four years.”Cole will make his move to Miami this week and, upon signing his rookie contract, will be united with his new teammates who agree with his sentiments.

Said center Dexter Pittman on Twitter: “Me and my girlfriend just hooked back up — basketball.”

The Heat’s revised schedule will be finalized and released after players and owners formally sign the new CBA. The NBA All-Star Game remains scheduled for Feb. 26 in Orlando.

So to sum up how i feel in short words  IT’S GOOD TO HAVE BASKETBALL BACK, WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN !!