This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There's only one problem with the end to the NBA lockout.

The league will once again stuff 5 pounds of games into a 3-pound season, like it did in 1999.

After a 15-hour bargaining session in New York, commissioner David Stern and representatives of the players announced shortly before sunrise Saturday the two sides had finally reached "an understanding" on a tentative agreement that will save the 2011-12 season.

Games will start on Christmas Day.

No word on whether the marketing-savvy NBA will have Deron Williams and his New Jersey Nets open against the Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena, but each team will play 66 games.

That means, despite losing almost two months because of the lockout, the regular season will be shortened by only 16 games.

A 50-game season would have made more sense, if not more dollars-and-cents.

By jamming 66 games into a four-month time slot — that's roughly one game every other night — the NBA is repeating the same mistake that made such a mockery of its previous lockout-impacted season.

Back then — in the early months of 1999 — Jazz forward Derrick Favors was 7 years old, John Stockton was still Utah's point guard, and Michael Jordan had just retired for the second time.

A little more than a decade later, Stockton and Jordan have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame, Favors is one of the Jazz's building blocks for the future and the NBA once again plans to ask too much of everybody — players, coaches, officials and fans.

A shortened season might be workable for those in the league office, for those at the TV networks that profit from the games and for the sponsors that slap their name on a brand name made magnificent by the athletic ability and competitiveness of the players.

But 66 games in four months will be even more taxing than playing 50 games in three months, which was a horrible idea.

I know.

I covered the mess on a day-to-day basis the last time it happened.

During the abbreviated '98-99 season, the Jazz opened on Feb. 5 and finished May 4.

In between, they won 37 games, lost 13, played back-to-back-to-back three times and wore out two of the most indestructible players in league history.

Stockton, remember, missed only 18 games in his 19 seasons in Utah.

Karl Malone missed only 10 games in 18 years with the Jazz.

It's not coincidental, however, that each suffered through one of the worst statistical seasons of his career when asked to play 50 games in 93 days.

The physical and mental strain was undeniable, even for two of the most well-conditioned and mentally tough players in league history.

Talking to Stockton years later, he told me a story that I will never forget.

During a game late in the unforgiving season, he remembered walking toward an official because he wanted to discuss a call.

When Stockton got "within three steps" of the referee, he suddenly turned around and walked away, unable to muster the energy and passion required to debate a perceived injustice.

Stockton?

No energy? No passion?

To me, that single episode sums up the entire sorry season.

So, yes, the NBA is back.

But once again, there will be too many games.

The league, it seems, did not learn from its previous mistake.

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