NBA: Tentative deal struck

David Stern NBA Commissioner

The NBA say they have reached a tentative agreement with the players to hopefully end the 149-day lockout and finally start the new season on Christmas Day.

Commissioner David Stern says the two sides met in secret during the week and again on Friday for a 15-hour session and they have now come to a ‘tentative’ agreement to get the season started on December 25.

Games up until December 15 had already been cancelled with the two sides unable to find an agreement on how to split the $4 billion annual income.

The league now plans to stage a 66-game season and open up training camps on December 9 ahead of a scheduled start date of Christmas Day, with a big-name triple header to kick-off the action.

“We’ve reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations, but we’re optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin Dec. 25,” Stern said.

“We want to play basketball, we’re very pleased we’ve come this far. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Christmas games

The highlight of what should be the opening day would be a repeat of the NBA Championship game with LeBron James and the Miami Heat facing reigning champions Dallas – along with Boston playing the New York Knicks and Chicago against LA Lakers.

With growing unrest amongst fans both sides risk losing face and popularity, so were keen to get their Christmas Day games played to get as much public attention as possible back on the court.

The matter will be more complicated as the players disbanded their union on November 14 and they must now end their legal action against the league, reform as a union and vote on the agreement before it can go through.

Stern sat next to union executive director Billy Hunter, who was still involved despite the players union being disbanded, to announce the deal.

“We thought it was in both of our best interests to try to reach a resolution and save the game,” Hunter said.

Owners had called for a 50-50 split of revenue after 22 of the 30 NBA teams suffered losses adding up to $300m, but the players, who had earned 57 percent in the previous deal, wanted 53% and there was apparently no negotiating room over that three percent.

“This was not an easy agreement for anyone. The owners came in having suffered substantial losses and feeling the system wasn’t working fairly across all teams,” said deputy commissioner Adam Silver.

“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.”