The NBA will be back on Christmas Day, pending approval of a tentative settlement of a lengthy, combustible lockout that came closer than ever before in league history to swallowing an entire season.
A 66-game schedule beginning with a triple-header — likely the originally intended season openers centered around a Finals rematch between Miami and Dallas — will begin Dec. 25 once the agreement is finalized, vetted by an army of attorneys and approved by the players and owners.
“We expect our labor relations committee to endorse this deal, this tentative agreement, and we expect our Board of Governors, at a meeting we will call after that, to endorse the deal,” commissioner David Stern said Saturday at a 3:40 a.m. ET news conference that followed a 15-hour negotiating session at a Manhattan law firm. “And we expect that a collective bargaining agreement will arise out of this deal as well.”
Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, which will be reconstituted as a union after disbanding Nov. 14 and taking its fight to the federal courts, estimated that the process — including a vote by the union membership — could be accomplished in three days to a week.
“I think it was the ability of the parties to decide it was necessary to compromise and to try to put this thing back together some kind of way and to be able to put an end to the litigation and everything it entails,” Hunter said. “And we just thought that rather than try to pursue this in court, it was in both of our interests to try to reach a resolution.”
Both sides will meet with their attorneys later Saturday and begin the process of withdrawing the lawsuits each has filed against the other. After convening at least twice by phone during the negotiations Friday, the owners’ labor relations committee will be briefed on the details of the agreement Saturday. At the same time, details of the broad agreement will be refined and B-list issues resolved, leading to a frenzied run-up to a shortened free-agency period — which could be so compressed it may coincide with the estimated start of training camp on Dec. 9.
“We’re confident that once we present it, [the players] will support it,” Hunter said.
Players gave ground on their share of revenue, which everyone expected, but apparently did a little better in the end than what had been offered previously. I think the key to this lies in this winners and losers compilation from ESPN:
LOSERS: The middle class
As owners and the league have spent a year obsessing about player costs, one clear factor has emerged: The poor-value contracts are the big deals for middling players. With or without stiff taxes, you can expect more teams to catch on to the idea of paying for stars and filling in the rest of the roster cheaply.
WINNER: The D-League
As more teams seek bargain players, more teams will invest effort in getting the most out of the NBA’s little brother.
They have long made far less than they are worth, and that’s not going to change now.
NBA owners are going to need to learn something that MLB owners have finally started to understand: It’s not paying for stars that kills you. Star players by definition can’t be overpaid because they can’t be replaced. Indeed, star players are often underpaid by the metric of what they could be earning. It’s overpaying for replaceable players that kills you. Too many NBA teams are comprised of fungible talent locked into multi-year multi-million dollar deals, and that’s not sustainable. The adjustment to more of a stars-and-scrubs market is going to be painful, but it was inevitable. I’m just glad it didn’t take a fully lost season to start the process.