NBA players, owners agree on deal

NEW YORK — Across the NBA, preparations are hastily being made for a season that almost was lost.

A tentative 10-year agreement between the NBA and the players was reached at shortly after 2 a.m.  on Saturday after a 15-hour bargaining session between commissioner David Stern and NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter.

The framework of the deal includes a virtual 50-50 split of an estimated $4 billion in revenue, compared with 57 percent in the previous pact. That translates into $300 million less for the players to share in the first year of the agreement, which covers almost all of what the league said its teams lost last season.

Players could get as much as 51 percent if revenues exceed expectations, but their share also could be cut to 49 percent if revenues fall short of projections.

Once details are ironed out, the season will open on Dec. 25 with the Knicks hosting the Celtics at Madison Square Garden.


"We are very pleased that we have come this far," Stern said. "There is a lot of work to be done in a lot of places, with a lot of committees and player groups and the like, but we are optimistic that it will hold and we will have ourselves an NBA season."

The agreement signaled the end of the NBA lockout, though it will not officially end until a deal is finalized. Neither Stern nor Hunter believes the ancillary issues will be a major stumbling block to finishing the process in time to begin training camps Dec. 9 and start a regular season on Christmas Day.

The salary-cap system will remain a soft cap, meaning teams can go over the cap but will be penalized for doing so with a more punitive luxury tax than before. The owners made several concessions to allow more player movement in free agency. Teams may sign a player to a full mid-level exception contract (five years, $5 million per) as long as the contract keeps the team less than $4 million over the luxury-tax threshold. Beyond $4 million, the mid-level exception is three years for $3 million. Sign-and-trades also are universally permitted.

"I think that there is still a lot of, shall we say, other issues to finish because we have the broadest outline," Stern said, "but I think both sides are optimistic that this will yield a full-blown series of agreements."

In the previous CBA, the players received 57 percent of league revenue, but to acknowledge heavy losses by a majority of the league's teams, the players initially were ready to reduce their share to a 53-47 split. The owners, however, were looking for a more dramatic change, with the owners getting 53 percent of the revenue on top of the implementation of a hard salary cap to promote competitive balance among the 30 NBA teams.

The sides took four months to move on their respective stances, as the players reduced their take to 52.5 percent to 51 percent and finally to a 50-50 concept. The owners moved off the hard cap and agreed to maintain the soft cap from the previous agreement, with added restrictions to curb payroll spending.

The owners also have discussed a revenue-sharing program that is not a part of this agreement but will be more robust than in previous years. High-revenue, big-market teams such as the Knicks and Lakers will kick in as much as $50 million each per season to assist the low-income small-market teams.

Before the deal can be completed, there are some small hurdles. There is a union to re-form, lawsuits to be withdrawn and workouts for players to organize before they are allowed back into team facilities.


After the exhausting negotiation that began Friday and went into yesterday morning, the sides went their separate ways later yesterday to get their respective houses in order.

The NBA held a conference call with the league's labor relations committee in the afternoon to go over the framework of the deal. The committee is expected to unanimously recommend that the deal go before the Board of Governors for a vote.

The league already has begun the process of putting together a regular-season schedule, using most of the dates already in place from the original 2011-12 schedule. The league will extend the regular season into late April and the NBA Finals will start a week later than usual. The NBA All-Star Game, hosted by the Orlando Magic, will take place as scheduled in February.

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