NBA players, owners reach tentative agreement to end lockout
It took 149 days and countless hours of hand-wringing, but the NBA lockout finally appears to be over.
Representatives for owners and players pushed back from the negotiating table after agreeing on the framework of a deal early Saturday morning in New York, creating the foundation for a 66th NBA season.
Prospects of an agreement were rocky as recently as last week when the players dissolved their union, but the 2011-12 season was scheduled to start Christmas Day, NBA Commissioner David Stern said.
“We’ve reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals ? but we’re optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin on Dec. 25,” Stern said at a news conference at about 3:30 a.m. ET Saturday.
There were plans for a 66-game regular season that would last until the final week of April, about a week longer than usual. The NBA Finals could potentially end in late June.
A majority of the NBA’s 450 players will have to agree on the new collective-bargaining agreement in a vote, as will a majority of the league’s 29 owners. A 30th team, New Orleans, is owned by the NBA and will vote in favor of ratification.
“We’re confident that once we present it [to players], that they will support it,” Billy Hunter, executive director of the disbanded players’ union, said after emerging from the 15-hour negotiating session.
Players and owners are expected to take at least another week to agree on smaller issues such as draft eligibility age and disciplinary items that include drug testing.
The NBA had canceled games through Dec. 15, but the Lakers were still scheduled to play the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 25 at Staples Center. Training camp will open Dec. 9, the same day free agency begins, Stern said.
“We’re on an incredibly tight schedule as you might imagine between now and opening on Christmas,” said Adam Silver, deputy commissioner of the NBA.
This week showed a surprising turnaround from last week, which started with the players’ union disbanding and ended with players filing antitrust lawsuits against the NBA, claiming the league was unfairly hindering their earning potential.
Players are expected to quickly retract their litigation and then reassemble as a union for the ratifying vote. They certainly seemed excited on Twitter.
“LOCKOUT OVER ?. About time,” Clippers guard Eric Gordon said.
Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant said he felt like waking up some of his relatives, putting on a Thunder hat and crying.
Indiana forward Danny Granger was more reserved: “I’m pretty sure the [players’] vote will happen either [Saturday] or Sunday ? let’s all pray this turns out well.”
Until this weekend, players and owners couldn’t close the gap in key areas such as luxury taxes for free-spending teams and salaries for mid-level free agents.
For the big-ticket item of basketball revenue, the sides reportedly agreed on a sliding scale in which players would annually receive 49% to 51% of revenue. They received 57% last season.
There is bad news for teams that like to spend: They will be hit with more severe luxury taxes in the proposed collective-bargaining agreement.
“I think it will largely prevent the high-spending teams from competing in the free-agency market in the way they’ve been able to in the past,” Silver said. “The luxury tax is harsher than it was in the past deal and we hope it’s effective.”
Silver did not specify the exact new workings of the luxury tax. The Lakers had the league’s highest payroll last season, doling out $91 million in player salaries and another $21 million in luxury-tax penalties.
Stern looked like he finally ended one of his darkest off-seasons as commissioner.
“We want to play basketball,” he said.
Bresnahan reported from Los Angeles.
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