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NBA’s 66-game schedule is definitely hectic

One new wrinkles collective-bargaining agreement is ‘‘Derrick Rose Rule.’’ | Wilfredo Lee~ap

One of the new wrinkles in the collective-bargaining agreement is the ‘‘Derrick Rose Rule.’’ | Wilfredo Lee~ap

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Updated: December 29, 2011 8:12AM

NBA fans shouted hallelujah early Saturday morning when a tentative agreement on a labor contract to end the 149-day lockout was announced.

A different brand of basketball awaits.

On Sunday, the NBA released the structure of the 66-game regular-season schedule, which will run from Dec. 25 to April 26. It will consist of 48 conference games — down from 52 last season — and only 18 nonconference games. Teams will not visit every NBA city.

Though the schedule still is being created, teams are expected to play about two more games a month.

Each team also will play on three consecutive days at least once, but no more than three times.

The other measure to trim time is to eliminate some days off during the second round of the playoffs.

Bulls guard C.J. Watson, who dropped the ceremonial puck at the Wolves’ game Sunday at Allstate Arena, was mum about the deal’s particulars but critical of the negotiating tactics the players used over the last few months.

ESPN reported that union chief Billy Hunter sent a memo to players Saturday night that says the new labor deal gives them a 51.2 percent share of basketball-related income in the 2011-12 season — down from the 57 percent the players received in the last year of the old contract.

From a strategic standpoint, Watson praised commissioner David Stern’s strategy.

“Stern is a good negotiator,” Watson said. “That’s the approach we should have taken at first. 

“It’s good just to get a deal done so we can all just get back to playing basketball.”

With training camp expected to begin Dec. 9, that would leave Watson and the Bulls with only a 16-day preseason to prepare for a Dec. 25 season opener against the Lakers in Los Angeles.

Watson, who was back and forth between Las Vegas and Chicago during the offseason, says he’s in shape and ready to go.

He worked out and played pickup ball with Nuggets forward Al Harrington, Cavaliers forward Omri Casspi and Knicks guard Chauncey Billups.

Meanwhile, there are still some nitty-gritty details owners and players must ratify.

One new wrinkle in the collective-bargaining agreement allows “elite” players to earn a nice bump in pay in their second contracts, which start with their fifth season.

It’s being called the “Derrick Rose Rule” for a good reason — the Bulls’ star appears to be the player most affected by the new guideline.

To qualify, a player must win an MVP award (Rose won it last season), get voted to the All-Star Game as a starter two times or twice in their first four seasons or get named to any level of the All-NBA team in those four seasons.

Players who qualify can earn the new maximum of up to 30 percent of the salary cap, which is a boost from 25 percent.

But before we can start talking about Rose’s next contract — we’ll save that drama for next summer — the new CBA must be ratified.

The players and owners believe they can quickly iron out the final details of the CBA. When they do, it will result in a CBA book that will be more than an inch thick.

Now, the big question is whether the owners will stick to their own rules.

In the past, owners would break their rules and spend more than they could afford to field the best teams. Then they’d turn around and blame the players.

At this point, they all need to play nice so they can simply play.

Contributing: Seth Gruen

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