If the tentative agreement reached with the players' union holds up, the NBA plans to kick off an abbreviated 66-game schedule with a Christmas Day triple header -- starting with the Knicks hosting the Boston Celtics.
"I can't wait," said Matt Karlen, 28, of Long Beach. "I'm ready to take the Celtics down."
Karlen's brother, Michael, 32, also of Long Beach, said the NBA might have some patching up to do with fans after a 149-day lockout.
"I'm happy it's over and I'm happy to have the Knicks back," he said, "but I definitely still have a bad taste in my mouth due to the greed from the owners and the players. It is a disgrace."
Dwight Gooden, former pitcher for the Mets and Yankees, took a break from signing autographs at Steiner Sports Store in Garden City to express his relief, too. He called himself a "big" Knicks booster.
"It's hard to find the middle ground," he said of the contract negotiations. "As a player you have to look out for yourself and also think about your fans."
The sports store's assistant manager, Adam Grun, 28, said he's looking forward to a surge in sales of NBA merchandise.
"If there are no games, no one is buying," he said.
The news was a tonic for sports-minded businesses near the Knicks' arena.
"Yeah, now that basketball's back on, that's good news for us," said Mark Collins, 37, bar manager at the Feile Irish pub on West 33rd Street.
Bonnie Rozales, 32, a manager at Stout, another bar near the Garden, was equally upbeat.
"We're really psyched about it," she said. "It will be fantastic for business. We miss the fans. We miss the orange."
At the Gerry Cosby & Co. sporting goods store on West 31st Street, manager Jim Root, 58, said his payoff will come with the start of the season.
Knicks fans won't be buying their jerseys until then, Root said.
"There's going to be a rush . . . " he said. "The orders are ready to go."
At Blarney Rock Bar and Grill on West 33rd Street, sports fan Bob Baker, 55, a print shop owner from Brooklyn, said the "real damage" from the NBA lockout was to "the merchandise sellers, the guys who take the tickets, maintenance guys . . . "
"The Knicks should go down to Zuccotti Park and give 500 tickets to those who suffered this economic frustration," he said.
With Igor Kossov