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Wizards set to start their season the day after Christmas

- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 26, 2011

Now that the NBA players and owners have a tentative deal in place for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the real work begins. Washington Wizards rookie Chris Singleton was awakened with the news early Saturday morning. It was the best of all Christmas presents.

"I woke with a lot of messages from friends and family," Singleton said. "I was excited. It felt great about it. It was good the hear it's [the lockout] finally over."

Evaluating Singleton, along with the Wizards' other draft picks, Jan Vesely and Shelvin Mack, will be high on the Wizards' priority list, as NBA executives can finally get on with the business of returning to the court. Free agency and training camp are both slated to begin on Dec. 9.

Already under contract for the Wizards are John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Rashard Lewis and Trevor Booker, JaVale McGee, Kevin Seraphin and Andray Blatche.

Restricted free agents Othyus Jeffers, Nick Young, Hamady Ndiaye and Larry Owens have all received qualifying offers, while Josh Howard, Maurice Evans and Yi Jianlian are unrestricted free agents. Jeffers might be unable to play this season, however, as he's rehabbing from an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered on July 17.

The Wizards also had three players playing overseas — Seraphin, Booker and Vesely — but all three should be back in a Wizards' uniform by the time the season begins. Seraphin, who is in Spain, has an opt-out clause, Booker returned to the States after injuring his knee, and Vesely will need to come to a buyout agreement with his Serbia team.

The league will play a 66-game season, and if the schedule remains intact, the Wizards will open at home against the New Jersey Nets on Dec. 26.

The location of the Wizards training camp hasn't been released, but the team could train on the campus of George Mason University, as they did last season.

Until the terms of the new CBA are ratified, there are still a number of issues to be resolved, including whether the league will still host an All-Star game, originally scheduled for Feb. 26 at the new Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. It's likely that the league will try and get the game in.

"We're looking forward to getting back on the court," said Evans in an interview televised on ESPN. Evans is the vice president of the NBA players' union, which voted to decertify, but is expected to re-certify within a week or two.

Evans, along with players union president Derek Fisher, remained at the negotiating table, even after decertification put the league's fate in the hands of lawyers and judges, in order to still try and hammer out a deal to save the season.

"We're hopeful that the players will ratify [the deal], and we're hopeful that the lawyers will work out everything with the settlement, and we can get back to doing what players do, play basketball," Evans said.

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