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Long before the two sides appear in a Minnesota courtroom, lawyers for the NBA and its players have begun settlement talks aimed at saving the league's lucrative Christmas Day games and a 66-game season.

Initially reported by Yahoo!Sports and confirmed by other national outlets, lawyers started talking on Tuesday and the discussions could head right into Thanksgiving Day if there's reason for them to continue.

They're talking about settling the two sides' various lawsuits against each other, the step that would in turn lead to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement even though the players' union supposedly no longer exists.

CBS Sports reported that Jim Quinn -- who was the players association's lead hired lawyer for nearly 20 years and a guy who brokered the deal that ended the last lockout-shortened season in 1998-98 -- has stepped forth to serve as a possible deal broker between the two fighting sides.

The deadline for saving those Christmas Day games is fast approaching, perhaps by the end of this coming holiday weekend: Commissioner David Stern repeatedly has said it'll take 30 days from the time an agreement is reached until the first regular-season game is played.

You can bet the league's TV partners -- ABC, ESPN and TNT -- are putting the press on to get the season saved.

The NBA originally scheduled Boston at New York, Miami at Dallas (in a Final rematch) and Bulls at Lakers for Christmas Day.

That original schedule obviously will get shortened and reconfigured if an agreement is reached, but expect the league to try to save those marquee matchups at least.

The New York Times reported Wednesday afternoon that the league could save a 66-game season if it starts on Christmas.

But haven't we heard that before...?

Negotiations between the owners and players' union broke apart on Nov. 14, when the union announced it was dissolving in order to file antitrust lawsuits against the NBA in federal court.

Players' lawyer Billy Hunter said Tuesday that a Minnesota magistrate judge could supervise a settlement conference next week. Let's see if the two sides have anything to take to the judge by then.

An NBA spokesman's only comment today was that the league remains in favor of a negotiated resolution.

Let's see if Thursday brings anything for anybody to be thankful for in this ridiculous matter.