After a 15-hour session in New York, the commissioner David Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter announced a tentative agreement. The NBA lockout is over. Potentially.
Yes, the agreement needs to be ratified by owners and players. No, not everyone is happy for the deal. But it seems both sides finally caved to the urgency of the matter. Here are some key points:
* Training camp (and free agency) begins Dec. 9
* The season starts December 25 (with a triple-header on TV)
* The season will be 66 games long
Key victories for the owners:
* More revenue (at least 49 percent, up from the 43 percent they got in the previous CBA)
* Stricter penalties for teams in the luxury tax (was dollar-for-dollar penalty. Now, I’m told, it’s like $2 to $3 per dollar spent over the tax). This discourages the big-money teams from going and staying over cap, which means small market teams will have more of a chance at free agents.
Key victories for the players:
* up to 51 percent revenue (which is not really a win, as much as it is not the loss they expected. It could be 50 percent, but it could have been 47 percent if some owners got their way)
* Owners must spend 85 to 90 percent of the salary cap. That means cheap and small-market teams will have to spend more money
* No hard cap (it’s not a real hard cap, but closer to a hard cap than previous. Still, the players will have some flexibility)
For more details, check out the live news story from my man Howard Beck, who has been all over this thing (along with the rest of the lockout crew):
By Howard Beck, New York Times
On a frantic Black Friday in Midtown Manhattan, the biggest deal was consummated in a law office tucked between FAO Schwartz and the Apple Store.
With a few handshakes, and surely a few sighs, the NBA and its players resolved a crippling labor dispute, paving the way to reopen their $4 billion-a-year business in time for the holidays.
Resolution came on the 148th day of the lockout, at the law offices of Weil Gotshal & Manges, while thousands of shoppers swarmed on the plaza below. With a deal in hand, the N.B.A. plans to start the season on Christmas Day and play a 66-game schedule. Ratification requires a simple majority of the N.B.A.’s 30 teams and a simple majority of the 430-plus players. The players must first reconstitute their union and drop the antitrust lawsuit that they filed last week against the league.
The deal features a 50-50 split of revenues — a $300 million salary cut for the players — along with shorter contracts, smaller raises and harsher penalties on the top-spending teams. The 10-year agreement is the longest in N.B.A. history, although either side can opt out after the sixth year.
Friday’s session was the 25th since the lockout began. Most of the same key negotiators were in the room, despite the players’ lawsuit and the disbanding of their union.
Commissioner David Stern represented the league, along with deputy commissioner Adam Silver, the San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt and the league’s top two lawyers. The players were represented by the leaders of their defunct union: Billy Hunter, Derek Fisher, Mo Evans, the lawyer Ron Klempner as well as the outside economist, Kevin Murphy.
“We’ve reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations,” Stern said at about 3:40 a.m. Saturday, “but we’re optimistic that that will all come to pass and that the N.B.A. season will begin on Dec. 25, Christmas Day, with a triple-header.”
Because of the many approvals required on both sides, and the need to formally dispense with the litigation, all parties involved declined to provide specifics about the agreement.
The lawyers spearheading the players’ lawsuit, David Boies and Jonathan Schiller, were not present. Nor was Jeffrey Kessler, the union’s chief outside counsel, who until now had been the lead negotiator for the players.
Kessler’s absence was not immediately explained, but the reasons seemed clear enough, given recent events. Jim Quinn — who preceded Kessler as outside counsel — was hired last week by Hunter to get the talks restarted. Although Kessler was still involved, Quinn effectively supplanted him as the union’s leading voice this week.
N.B.A. officials regard Kessler as a contentious personality who has been an impediment to making a deal. Quinn, who was the union’s outside counsel for two decades, is highly regarded by all parties and has a strong rapport with league officials, notably Stern.
Quinn was at the table when the parties quietly reconvened on Tuesday, but he was out of town on Friday. An associate from the law firm Weil, Gotshal and Manges took his place.
The N.B.A. has about four weeks to get the season started. It will take a week to 10 days to finish the collective bargaining agreement, which will be followed by a week of free agency and a week of training camp. A number of B-list items — including drug testing, the age limit and use of the Development League — still need to be negotiated.
Training camps and free agency will open, simultaneously, on Dec. 9, Stern said.
Three games are scheduled for Christmas, and will probably remain unchanged. The Boston Celtics will play the Knicks in the morning, followed by Miami at Dallas and Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers. The rest of the schedule will be rewritten and released in the coming days. Most of the critical issues, including the revenue split, were resolved weeks ago, leaving just a handful of issues to resolve.