The NBA is back.
The NBA and lawyers for the NBA players have reached a tentative agreement on the next collective bargaining agreement. The deal must still be ratified by the league's 450 players, which can come only after the union reforms, but a deal is in place and expected to pass a majority vote on both sides.
The lockout will not be lifted until the deal is ratified, which both sides said they were confident would happen.
The tentative agreement includes A-list issues like split of basketball revenue and a luxury tax system, but does not yet include B-list issues like drug testing and age limit.
Asked to comment broadly about the deal, deputy commissioner Adam Silver and San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt said that while the league didn't get the vast system changes it initially wanted (i.e. hard salary cap), they do believe this CBA will allow smaller-market teams to compete.
NBA commissioner David Stern said the 2011-12 season is expected to start on Christmas Day with the already-scheduled triple-header. The NBA hopes to pack in a 66-game season, extending the end of the regular season by approximately 10 days to two weeks. Stern also said the NBA is aiming to open training camps on Dec. 9, which would also be the opening date of the free agency period. It's an odd arrangement -- opening camps and free agency at the same time -- but as Silver pointed out, the NBA is on a tight timeline to launch by Dec. 25.
In the mean time, both the NBA and the union would work on moving this broad, tenative agreement from the settlement stage to a detailed CBA. And then to ratification.
This agreement was reached in the early morning hours on Saturday, after approximately 15 hours of settlement talks from midday Friday until early-morning Saturday. Friday's session came on the heels of private sessions earlier in the week.
Stern said that this tentative agreement came after knocking heads again, but Stern said the difference was that both sides understood how important it was to the fans, as well as the arena employees (and other similarly affected employees), to get this deal done.
On Nov. 14, the NBPA rejected the NBA's then-latest offer and decided to dissolve the union. The trade association -- the former union -- immediately filed anti-trust lawsuits in both California and Minnesota. The players then consolidated the two lawsuits into one. Because the union dissolved, Friday's session was officially "settlement talks" and not a "collective bargaining session."
Both Stern and Billy Hunter declined to speak about the details of the agreement until they each speak to their respective sides. Stern said he would be "disappointed" if he didn't receive a unanimous vote from the NBA Board of Governors (committee of owners). Hunter and union president Derek Fisher both seemed confident this tentative deal would be pushed through by the players once the union was re-formed. Hunter said they already had a call scheduled with their lawyers for tomorrow (Saturday) morning.