Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tentative NBA Labor Agreement Reached

By Payton Wales

New York, N.Y. -- It took 149 days and one 16-hour marathon negotiation session the day after Thanksgiving to accomplish what many were thinking was an impossibility: a deal between owners and players.

At 3 a.m. Nov. 26, the owners, led by commissioner David Stern, and the players union, led by Billy Hunter, walked out of the boardroom  with a tentative deal on a new collective bargaining agreement. The agreement means there will be a shortened 66-game season with games beginning on Christmas day and mini-camps beginning Dec. 9.

Stern quickly reminded everyone the agreement is tentative and is still "subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations." Stern continued, "But we're optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin Dec. 25."

Specifics of the agreement were sparse from both Hunter and Stern as they sat next to each other to announce the deal. A major detail talked about outside of the tentative schedule leading up to tip-off included the players receiving a 49-51 percent band of the BRI, meaning the worst the players will ever receive of the BRI is 49 percent and the best they can get is 51 percent. The deal is also purportedly for 10 years with an option for both sides to terminate or adjust the deal after six years.

The agreement came almost two weeks after the NBPA decided to disband and began filing anti-trust lawsuits against the NBA in multiple states, including Minnesota, California and New York and will have to be ratified by both sides. Stern said the labor committee plans to discuss the agreement later Saturday and expects their endorsement and recommendation to the full board of governors.

The players union will now immediately reform by dropping the antitrust lawsuits filed earlier this week. Once that is done they can vote on the deal, needing a simple majority vote from their 430 members to have the deal pass.

The matter of the "B-list" issues will still have to be worked out by both sides but this list, which consists of a small litany items including drug testing, Developmental League assignments and draft age eligibility, still have to be agreed upon. But those issues are believed to be a simple matter of formality when the sides meet again Saturday afternoon.

When asked if the recent litigation on the part of the players vs. the NBA was a driving force behind the acceleration and owners willingness to make a deal, Stern denied it as a factor.

"For us, the litigation is something that just has to be dealt with," Stern said. "It was not the reason for the settlement. 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. 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."

Fair might be the wrong way of looking at the deal, though as it seems neither side was particularly happy with the way things worked out. Both sides seemed to have some detractors who felt they had not gotten every thing they wanted. But many see that as a good negotiation, a showing that both sides made concessions to get to this point.

"This was not an easy agreement for anyone," deputy commissioner Adam Silver said. "The owners came in having suffered substantial losses and feeling the system wasn't working fairly across all teams. I certainly know the players had strong views about expectations in terms of what they should be getting from the system. It required a lot of compromise from both parties' part, and I think that's what we saw today."

The deal came as a surprise to many, specifically fans and players. In the past few days, they have seen a good portion of players sign overseas contracts, which seemed to be an indication of a lost season.

If the current scheduled NBA season stays virtually intact, the 2011-12 season will open with the Boston Celtics at New York Knicks, followed by Miami at Dallas in an NBA finals rematch before MVP Derrick Rose and Chicago closes the triple-header against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.

One thing we can all say is, it's about time.


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