Title defense to begin vs. Heat on Christmas?


The final game of the Dallas Mavericks' championship run was played against the Miami Heat and it now appears their title defense will begin the same way.

Just two weeks into its "nuclear winter," the NBA appears headed back to work after a marathon negotiating session Friday in New York ended in the wee hours of the morning with a tentative agreement that could soon end the lockout after a vote by each side. A majority on both sides is needed to approve it.

If approved, a shortened, 66-game season will start on Christmas Day and the schedule is expected to include the original nationally televised triple-header featuring the Heat at the Mavs. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James would seemingly also get to watch the Mavs receive their championship rings and raise their 2010-11 championship banner to the rafters of the American Airlines Center.

A full schedule will likely be released after both sides ratify the deal.

Important date of note is a Dec. 9 start to training camps and what will be a frenzied free agency, a critical period for the Mavs, who have six free agents including Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson.

Brian Cardinal is also a free-agent and this was his reaction on Twitter to the end of the lockout:

"I wonder where @tysonchandler and @jjbareapr will play this coming season???? #MFFL"

As more details became clear about a more punitive luxury tax system during negotiation sessions a few weeks ago, Chandler had become vocal of his distaste for it because it meant it would make it difficult for Dallas to re-sign him.

The Mavs already have more than $64 million tied into 10 contracts for the coming season, so it would seem virtually impossible to re-sign all of their free agents. Chandler will soon be a top-three free-agent and will command a top-tier salary.

This from NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver:

"I think it will largely prevent the high-spending teams from competing in the free-agency market in the way they [have] in the past. It's a compromise. It's not the system we sought out to get in terms of the harder cap, but the luxury tax is harsher than it was in the past deal and we hope it's effective. You never can be sure, but we feel, ultimately, it will give fans in every community hope that their team will be able to compete for championships and that their basis for believing in their team will be a function of management rather than how deep the owners' pockets are or how large the market is."

For a look at winners and losers of this nearly six-month lockout, click here.

As details of the new CBA are released, we'll look at what it means for the Mavs as they put together their 2011-12 roster.