Enjoy it while it lasts. This may be the last you'll see of LeBron James and Amar'e Stoudemire and Kobe Bryant and the rest for a while.
The NBA's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) -- the document that outlines just about every aspect of the league and its relationship with its players -- expires after this season, and the owners are looking for changes.
The owners are looking for what they call "cost certainty" -- which translates loosely as "we'd like to continue raking in big bucks, but we're not so keen on sharing the dough with the players." The players, on the other hand, are very happy with the status quo -- and why wouldn't they be, when the current system ensures players like Eddy Curry continue to get paid well over $11 million this year.
At this point, a lockout is a virtual certainty -- but that just means the league will shut down operations after the NBA Finals, until a new CBA is in place. Depending on how negotiations go, the first casualties will be the 2011 NBA Draft and the summer leagues. The longer discussions drag out, the more cancellations we'll see. In 1998-99, the league and NBAPA didn't reach a settlement until mid-January. The 1998-99 season didn't start until February 5, was shortened to 50 games, and the all-star game was canceled entirely.
Worth noting -- it was during that lockout that most of the current labor agreement was put in place.
Will we see a similar delay to the start of the 2011-12 season? Or something worse, like the lockout that ate the entire 2004-05 National Hockey League season? Here's a look at the issues the negotiators will have to settle before next season can tip off.