DALLAS -- Derek Harper has spent the balance of his adult life being associated with the NBA. So when he learned Saturday that the league and the players had reached a tentative deal on a 10-year collective bargaining agreement, he was ecstatic.
"I'm lost without basketball," said Harper, who played from 1983-99. "You play for 16-17 years in the league, it's a part of your life.
"Whether you're covering it or just watching it, you get accustomed to it. It's in my system, because it's what I did for 16 years."
Harper and other NBA fans will get to watch the sport again Christmas Day when the league tips off with a tripleheader. The day will be highlighted by a rematch of the NBA Finals between the world champion Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat at American Airlines Center. The Mavs will receive their championship rings and raise their championship banner.
Harper said a canceled season would have resulted in a public relations disaster for the league. Instead, the NBA will play a 66-game season, with training camps set to open Dec. 9.
"The league doesn't have to listen to me or read your stuff, but they better listen to your everyday fan, because that's what matters," Harper said.
"I think I speak for a vast majority in saying the heck with the money, the heck with everything."
Mark Aguirre, who played from 1981-94, said the league has to take care of more damage control to get back in fans' good graces.
"So far as hurting them, I think [the lockout is] going to hurt both ways," Aguirre said. "It's going to hurt the players and it's going to hurt the owners, because that [NBA] machine was running real nice," Aguirre said.
"Now you've got to go back and re-create all the good that you had -- meaning the season-ticket holders, the fans -- because you lost some," Aguirre said. "A lot of people are going to think about spending their dollars in other ways."
Erick Dampier, who is a free agent after playing last season for the Heat, warned that the new CBA is only a tentative agreement and that the owners and players still must vote to ratify the deal this week.
"If the lockout is over it's definitely good," Dampier said. "It's good for the game, it's good for the fans, it's good for the players, it's good for everybody.
"As players, you don't really know what's really true. According to the reports I received, they weren't too sure there was going to be a season."
Harper and Aguirre believe the shortened season favors teams that have their core group in place such as the Mavs, Heat, Lakers, Celtics, Thunder and Grizzlies.
"It favors a team that's been together, a team that's experienced, a team that has the right chemistry," Harper said. "It favors the better teams in the league."
The Mavs, though, have to decide if they can -- and if the new CBA will allow them to -- re-sign free agents Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson, Peja Stojakovic and Brian Cardinal.
"That's a no-brainer about re-signing Tyson Chandler," Aguirre said.
Harper is just glad both sides compromised.
"Does it really matter [who came out ahead] at the end of the day?" Harper said. "It doesn't matter to me and I'm an ex-player. You've got to be able to divide this money and move on, just like they did, thank God."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760