Free agency officially hits starting grid

Rest assured that at 8 a.m. sharp Donnie Nelson will be placing a call to Jeff Schwartz, agent for unrestricted free agent center Tyson Chandler.

The NBA's free agency period is officially on the starting grid. The NBA has eased lockout restrictions and starting Wednesday morning teams can contact agents and begin contract talks. Top priority for the Dallas Mavericks' president of basketball operations is making sure that the 7-foot-1 Chandler is in a Mavs uniform on Christmas Day.

While talks can take place, no agreements, oral or written, can be made.

Chandler is considered one of the top three free agents along with Denver Nuggets center Nene and New Orleans Hornets power forward David West.

The Mavs have five other free agents: J.J. Barea, Caron Butler DeShawn Stevenson, Brian Cardinal and Peja Stojakovic.

Players can return to their teams' practice facilities on Thursday. They will be allowed to workout under the supervision of team strength and conditioning coaches, but the coaching staff and front office personnel will still not be allowed to be present.

The labor deal that was tentatively agreed to by the league and the players on Saturday still must be completed and ratified by both sides before the lockout will be fully lifted. That is also when teams will be allowed to sign free agents and make trades. Dec. 9 is the target date.