Source: NBA owners, players agree to tentative deal

Under deal, 66-game season would begin on Christmas

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NEW YORK — A person familiar with the deal says NBA owners and players have reached a tentative agreement to end the lockout.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity Saturday because the agreement has not yet been announced.

After a secret meeting earlier this week, the sides met for more than 15 hours Friday, working to try to save the season. Under the deal, a 66-game season would begin on Christmas.

This handshake deal still must be ratified by both owners and players.

NBA owners and players were engaged in another marathon session Friday, meeting for more than 15 hours in talks.

The Dec. 25 schedule is traditionally a showcase for the league. This season's three-game slate was to include Miami at Dallas in an NBA finals rematch, plus MVP Derrick Rose leading Chicago into Los Angeles to face Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.

After a secret meeting earlier this week, the sides returned to the table to try to hash out a deal. Commissioner David Stern has said the league needs about 30 days from an agreement to when games could be played.

Participating in the talks for the league were Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, Spurs owner Peter Holt, the chairman of the labor relations committee, and attorneys Rick Buchanan and Dan Rube. The players were represented by executive director Billy Hunter, president Derek Fisher, vice president Maurice Evans, attorney Ron Klempner and economist Kevin Murphy.

The discussions between representatives of the owners and players are now centered on settling their lawsuits: The players filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league in Minnesota, and the league filed a pre-emptive suit in New York, seeking to prove the lockout was legal.

Because the union disbanded, it cannot negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, but the settlement talks could lead to that. The CBA can only be completed once the union has reformed.

There are still a handful of issues relating to spending rules for teams that must be worked out issues that have been an obstacle to a new deal since the lockout began July 1. Players fear that owners' desires to curb spending by the big-market teams would limit their options as free agents.

Talks last broke down Nov. 14 when players rejected the owners' proposal that included opening a 72-game schedule on Dec. 15, instead announcing instead they were disbanding the union, giving them a chance to win several billion dollars in triple damages in an antitrust lawsuit.