NBA fans will get an extra present this Christmas as the league is scheduled to tip off on Dec. 25 with a triple header. The news came down about 2 am on Nov. 26 as NBA owners tentatively agreed to end the 149-day lockout after coming to terms with the players’ union on a new collective bargaining agreement. However, it’s still not official as there are several legal issues that need to be taken care of and the handshake deal will need to be accepted by the players in a vote.
If things go according to plan then training camps will open on Dec. 9 and free agency will begin the same day. The 2011/12 season should then get underway with the New York Knicks at home to the Boston Celtics, followed by the Dallas Mavericks at home to the Miami Heat and then the Chicago Bulls on the west coast to take on the Los Angeles Lakers.
Specifics of the new deal weren’t immediately released, but NBA Commissioner David Stern and Billy Hunter of the players’ union said it was in the interests of both sides to try and save as much of the season as they could. The owners and players met for about 15 hours on Nov. 25 and things were pretty complex, but they agreed to a deal in principle.
Each team will play a total of 66 games in the first year of the 10-year contract, 16 less than a normal 82-game schedule. But either side may opt out of the agreement following the sixth year. To be ratified, the contract needs to be approved by the majority of players and owners. This means that 15 out of the 29 team owners need to agree to it. The New Orleans Hornets don’t need to vote since the league owns the franchise.
On the union’s side, just a majority vote is needed from the approximate 430 members. However, the union was dissolved on Nov. 14 and it needs to be reformed before they can vote on the deal. The union also needs to drop its antitrust lawsuit which was filed in Minnesota. The NBA also has to drop its lawsuit in New York. There’s still a lot of work to do though including an agreement on drug testing and several other issues.
NBA owners are hoping the league has more parity with the new deal instead of it being dominated by the big spenders such as the Celtics, Lakers, and Mavericks. They hope a stricter luxury tax will achieve this. They’re also hoping that the fans will flock back to the arenas after the work stoppage, especially after such as successful season in 2010/11.
The lockout started on July 1 and it looked like it might wipe out the entire season after players and owners couldn’t come to an agreement on the division of revenues and other issues. The owners claim they lost millions of dollars during the last agreement and wanted the players to take a smaller percentage of the revenues.
After the players filed their lawsuit things moved along at a faster pace though, as they could have won close to $6 billion worth of damages if it had been successful, but Stern said that’s not the reason the owners settled. This will be the NBA’s second short season in its history. After the lockout of 1998/99 the teams played a 50-game schedule.
It’s not expected that the vote will be unanimous on either side as there are people who are still unhappy with the deal, but it’s still expected to be approved by the majority. Specific terms of the deal should be released shortly.