NBA, Players Reach Tentative Deal to End Lockout

NBA playersNBA
owners and players reached a tentative agreement early Saturday to end
the 149-day lockout after a 15-hour session that began at noon Friday.

Pictured: Players executive director Billy Hunter, left,
and NBA Commissioner David Stern, right, are all smiles after reaching a
tentative agreement early Saturday to end the 149-day NBA lockout and
get a season started in December. Patrick McDermott, Getty Images

This handshake deal, however, still must be ratified by owners and players.

“We’ve
reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of
approvals and very complex machinations, but we’re optimistic that will
all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin Dec. 25,”
Commissioner David Stern said.

The league plans a 66-game season and aims to open camps Dec. 9.

“We
thought it was in both of our best interests to try to reach a
resolution and save the game,” trade association executive director Billy Hunter said.

The crunch to get a deal to get the Christmas Day
national TV slate on the schedule created a sense of urgency, because
that is traditionally a showcase for the league. This season’s
triple-header was to include the NBA Finals rematch of the Miami Heat at the champion Dallas Mavericks, plus MVP Derrick Rose leading the Chicago Bulls into Los Angeles to face Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.

A majority on each side is needed to approve the agreement. The NBA
needs votes from 15 of 29 owners. (The league owns the New Orleans
Hornets.) Stern said the labor relations committee plans to discuss the
agreement later Saturday and expects them to endorse it and recommend to
the full board.

The trade association needs a simple majority of
its 430-plus members. That process is a bit more complicated after the
players dissolved the union Nov. 14. Now, they must drop their antitrust
lawsuit in Minnesota and reconstitute the union before voting on the
deal.

Because the union disbanded, a new
collective bargaining agreement can only be completed once the union has
reformed. Drug testing and other issues still must be negotiated
between the league and the players.

The settlement first was reported by CBSSports.com.

Participating in the talks for the league were Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt,
the chairman of the labor relations committee, and attorneys Rick
Buchanan and Dan Rube. The players were represented by Hunter, president
Derek Fisher, vice president Maurice Evans, attorney Ron Klempner and economist Kevin Murphy.

When
fhe last talks broke down, the sides were still divided over the
division of revenues and certain changes sought by owners to curb
spending by big-market clubs that players felt would limit or restrict
their options in free agency.

On Nov. 14,
players rejected the owners’ proposal, which included opening a 72-game
schedule on Dec. 15, announcing instead they were disbanding the union,
giving them a chance to win several billion dollars in triple damages in
an antitrust lawsuit.

Two days later, players
filed two separate antitrust lawsuits against the league in two states.
On Monday, a group of named plaintiffs including Carmelo Anthony, Steve Nash and Kevin Durant
filed an amended federal lawsuit against the league in Minnesota,
hoping the courts there would be as favorable to them as they have been
to NFL players in the past.

Now, players will dismiss that lawsuit and get back to the business of basketball.

The previous CBA
expired at the end of the day June 30. Despite a series of meetings in
June, there was never much hope of a deal before that deadline, with
owners wanting significant changes after saying they lost $300 million
last season and hundreds of millions more in each year of the old
agreement, which was ratified in 2005.

Owners
wanted to keep more of the league’s nearly $4 billion in basketball
revenues to themselves after guaranteeing 57% to the players under the
old deal. And they sought a system where even the smallest-market clubs
could compete, believing the current system would always favor the clubs
that could spend the most.

Initially, the
salary cap emerged as the biggest obstacle. Owners first proposed a hard
cap, but players fought hard to maintain the current system that allows
clubs to exceed the cap through the use of various exceptions.

The
league was adamant the system needed some adjustment, because the old
rules gave too many advantages to clubs that could afford to keep adding
to their payrolls. So the league’s proposals targeted the
highest-spending clubs, seeking to eliminate the use of the midlevel
exception by clubs over the luxury tax and prevent them from
participating in sign-and-trade deals.

Source: Brian Mahoney, The Associated Press