The TV sports industry will be relieved that, around 12:30 AM today, The AP is quoting NBA Commissioner David Stern as saying, “We’re optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin December 25th. He confirmed the two sides reached a “tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations”. Already, the league had cut 10 games from the normal season in a revised schedule which would mean a big hit on ad revenue for ABC/ESPN, TNT/Turner and regional sports networks that hold lucrative TV rights to games. The tentative end to the 148-day lockout was reached after a secret meeting earlier this week when the sides met for more than 15 hours Friday, working to try to save the season. Now this handshake deal still must be ratified by both owners and players. A majority on each side is needed. The NBA needs votes from 15 of 29 owners. (The league owns the New Orleans Hornets.) The union needs a simple majority of its 430-plus members. Under the deal, a 66-game season would begin on Christmas. Stern had said the league needs about 30 days from an agreement to when games could be played, and that deadline created a sense of urgency.

Before now, the NBA’s locked-out players had rejected the league’s latest offer for a new collective bargaining agreement today, with union executive director Billy Hunter calling the proposed deal “extremely unfair.” He said the players’ association was beginning the process of disbanding the union — the first step in filing an antitrust action against the league and sending the whole mess to the courts. It’s the same tactic the NFL’s players used during their lockout over the summer, but this time the move would jeopardize the entire NBA season. Commissioner David Stern had called the latest labor offer the league’s best, proposing a 50-50 split in revenue between players and owners. He said the next offer on the table will be much less favorable: a 53-47 split in favor of the league.