December 25 seems like the date thrown around most for the start of the ’11-12 season. That’d be a Christmas gift indeed. Reports CBS Sports: “Two people who have been briefed on the league’s strategy told the NBA is holding out hope a settlement can be reached in time for the season to begin no later than Christmas. One of those people said the process already is under way through what he described as ‘back-channeling,’ although sources from both sides professed no knowledge of such conversations. A third person said that based on how vendor contracts and other financial arrangements were put in place, starting the season by Christmas would be optimal as far as preserving those relationships, and of course, revenues. Multiple people who have spoken with top NBA officials about the matter said it is understood that starting the season after Christmas is not viewed as a viable option. ‘The 50-game season like they had in ’98-99, the league doesn’t want that,’ one of the people briefed on the NBA’s strategy said. ‘I don’t know that there’s an appetite for a 50-game season,’ another person familiar with the league’s position said.”