Nuclear winter is a relatively short season after all. The lockout is not over. Not yet at least, but the two sides in the 149-day long lockout have come to a tentative agreement that should end the NBA lockout. Before a season can begin both the players and the owners will have to ratify the agreement.
After a long and bitter lockout, the league has plans to begin the NBA season on Christmas Day with a triple-header. From there, a 66 game season will take place. Training camps will begin on December 9 which will also mark the beginning of free agency. Of course, this is all predicated on whether the two sides will agree to the proposed deal.
For players, who dissolved their union on November 14, their lawsuit, the players initially filed two separate ones but they consolidated them into one in the Minnesota courts, against the NBA must be dropped and the union must reform before a vote can take place on whether or not to approve the agreement reached. The players need a simple majority vote to ratify the deal. As for the owners, Commissioner David Stern will take the proposed deal before the NBA labor committee later on Saturday where they are expected to approve the deal. Fifteen of the 29 owners, the league owns the New Orleans Hornets, must vote in favor of any new collective bargaining agreement.
Throughout the duration of the lockout, seemingly every issue brought to the table was a contentious one. Basketball-Related Income and system issues became the focal points of the talks and were frequently the reason that the two sides would abandon negotiations all together for periods of time. Now what remains is six pages of “B-List” issues that need to be sorted out. These include the NBA age limit, drug testing, and rookie salaries. All of these items will have to be resolved before the NBA Board of Governors can vote on the deal.
Details have not fully emerged on how the new CBA is structured but it appears that the previous 49 to 51 percent band of BRI will remain in place. Also, as Larry Coon reports, there will be a relaxed stance on the mid-level exception that the owners had pushed for with the elimination of smaller mid-level exceptions for tax-paying teams. Sign-and-trade contract extensions, which hardline ownership had vehemently opposed, will remain in the new CBA and penalties for teams paying luxury taxes are not as significant as some owners had wanted. However, they will be harsher than they were under the last CBA.
With the impending ratification of a new agreement there is room for celebration. Yet, that celebration is marred with the knowledge that there is no winner. Basketball wins, but as Nike has pointed out during the lockout, basketball never stops. This was an ugly dispute and the two sides have no one to blame but themselves. They had two years to come to terms on a new labor agreement but instead chose to go down a path of no return. This is their doing.
When the season begins there will no doubt be a high degree of animosity between some players and owners, especially those owners that were singled out as hardline, wanting the players to concede more and more on every issue. These are the Michael Jordans, the Dan Gilberts, the Rob Savers, and the Paul Allens. These are the small market teams that preached “competitive balance” but who really wanted to bleed the players dry. There will be a rift. Over time though, it may close.
For now, fans and players wait. Fans wait for confirmation that there will be an NBA season. Players wait for the opportunity to approve the agreement that has been reached. They will ratify it. There is no doubt that they will. However, there will be voices around them that will say that the deal does not benefit them, that they lost. Yes, the players conceded to the owners. Yes, their share of BRI is significantly less, but without a season they would have no income at all (endorsements aside).
This Christmas, NBA fans will not rush to see what is under the tree. Instead, they will rush to see what is on TV. Whether they have been naughty or nice they should be treated to the gift that is NBA basketball. If the schedule stands as it is fans can expect to see the Boston Celtics play the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the Miami Heat playing the defending champion Dallas Mavericks in Dallas (oh, what a day for Mark Cuban to raise the banner), and the Chicago Bulls travel west to play the Los Angeles Lakers. That is quite a lineup and it will be a good present. However, the bitter pill that we were forced to swallow since July 1 will still loom large as the NBA starts its second shortest season in history.