The NBA isn’t officially ready for business, but its doors will open soon.
Beginning Thursday, players can use team training facilities for voluntary workouts, according to a league memo to team officials.
The facilities will be open to all players who are currently in the NBA, including free agents and players who were selected in the amateur draft last June. Players may use any team’s practice facility, but coaches and front-office officials can’t be present for workouts.
If coaches and team officials see a player, they are instructed to have only “minimal interaction as is required by courtesy.”
Athletic trainers and strength-and-conditioning coaches are allowed to help players with off-court workouts at team facilities but can’t supervise or participate in any on-court basketball activity.
Players must sign a release of liability before beginning their first workouts. Players can also start taking physical exams at team facilities Thursday, according to the memo.
On Wednesday, teams can start talking to players’ representatives about contract terms for free agents but can’t officially make verbal or written agreements. Free agency and training camps are expected to begin Dec. 9, with the Lakers scheduled to start their season Dec. 25 against Chicago at Staples Center.
The memo represented another sign of thawing between teams and players, who were not allowed to communicate during the 149-day lockout that appeared to end last weekend.
The collective-bargaining agreement has not officially been ratified, though representatives for NBA players and owners stayed up late last Friday and into the first few hours of Saturday morning to work out the framework of a new agreement.
Now everybody has to wait while a vote is collected the old-fashioned way.
There are still dozens of peripheral labor contract issues to discuss, including drug testing, draft-age eligibility and player disciplinary penalties, but the players’ union is not expected to form again until Friday at the earliest, and more likely Saturday or Sunday.
Forget about email and the Internet. Players vote on re-forming the union with cards that must be mailed to the union office in New York. Only then can they officially become a group again and continue negotiations with owners.
The union disbanded two weeks ago so players could file antitrust lawsuits against the NBA, but players are expected to vote affirmatively for re-formation.
When owners and players reach agreement on the other parts of the collective-bargaining proposal, it can be ratified with a majority vote of the 450-plus NBA players and 30 owners. The NBA owns the New Orleans Hornets, who will vote to accept the proposal.
Meanwhile, the antitrust lawsuits filed against the league have not been retracted by players, but a judge in Minnesota on Tuesday issued a stay on court proceedings until Dec. 9, as per the players’ request.