NBA union executive director Billy Hunter and NBA commissioner David Stern share a laugh at a press conference announcing a tentative deal between owners and players. (Source: NBA.com)
Yes, Virginia, it seems there is a Santa Claus after all.
It took more than 15 hours of talks, lasting from Friday into the early hours of Saturday, but NBA owners and players have finally reached a tentative deal to end the 149-day lockout and salvage the remainder of the season.
“We’ve reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations,” NBA commissioner David Stern said at a news conference shortly after a deal was reached. “But we’re optimistic that that will all come to pass, and that the NBA season will begin on Dec. 25, Christmas Day, with a tripleheader.”
If a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, the season will likely open with the Boston Celtics at New York Knicks, a rematch of the NBA finals with Miami Heat at Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls visiting the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas.
Though details of the contract were still murky, it appears that the deal will include a 50-50 split of revenues. However, the final amount will depend on whether the league exceeds or falls short of revenue projections. Players could make as much as 51 percent or as little as 49. Currently, players had been earning 57 percent.
“The reason for the settlement was we’ve got fans, we’ve got players who would like to play and we’ve got others who are dependent on us,” Stern said. “And it’s always been our goal to reach a deal that was fair to both sides and get us playing as soon as possible, but that took a little time.”
The agreement is expected to be a 10-year deal, and either side will be able to end it after six years. The deal seems to overwhelmingly favor the owners. It will include a significant pay cut for players, along with shorter contracts, smaller raises and a more punitive tax system to reign in the top-spending teams, writes the New York Times.
The league plans a 66-game season, the shortest in modern times, and aims to open training camps Dec. 9, with free agency opening at the same time. Stern has said it would take about 30 days from an agreement to playing the first game.
"For myself, it's great to be a part of this particular moment in terms of giving our fans what they wanted and wanted to see," sid Derek Fisher, the president of the National Basketball Players' Association.
Owners locked out players on July 1, claiming that they had lost millions since the last collective bargaining agreement was reached in 2005. Owners sought to reduce the players’ 57 percent share of compensation to address more than $300 million in losses last season. Over the last few months, player and owners participated in secret and public talks, ultimatums were presented and ignored, the union was disbanded, anti-trust lawsuits were filed, and there was lots of name-calling.
Once the union gets back together and the lawsuits are withdrawn, the deal will go before owners and player s for ratification. A majority will be needed by each side is needed to approve the deal. The NBA needs votes from 15 of 29 owners. And the union needs a simple majority of its 430-plus members.
Participating in the talks for the league were Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, Spurs owner Peter Holt, the chairman of the labor relations committee, and attorneys Rick Buchanan and Dan Rube, writes the AP. The players were represented by executive director Billy Hunter, president Derek Fisher, vice president Maurice Evans, attorney Ron Klempner and economist Kevin Murphy.
The two sides plan to return to work later Saturday, speaking with attorneys and their own committees to keep the process moving, says the AP.