It does indeed look like the NBA will be back in time for Christmas, with the owners and players reaching a tentative agreement for a 66 game season early Saturday morning. Before the deal becomes final, a majority on both sides will still have to approve it.
“We’ve reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern, but he was optimistic that everything would be in order for the season to tip off on Christmas Day. Among other things, the players' union must reform to even vote on the agreement. The union was dissolved on November 14 after negotiations had seemingly reached a stalemate.
It's hard to view the agreement as anything other than a win for the owners, as it was the players who made most of the major concessions. They are giving up $300 million a year in salaries, a figure that would reach $3 billion over the 10 year life of the deal. The revenue split between owners and players is now 50-50 (a number that can fluctuate between 49 and 51 percent for players, depending on whether financial projections are met). Under the previous collective bargaining agreement the players received 57 percent of league revenue.
Though there is excitement over the prospect of professional basketball before the new year, reaction to the deal has been mixed on the Internet:
- For Yahoo's Kelly Dwyer, the tentative agreement finally means fans can focus on basketball, not whether or not there will even be a season:
"For once, though, you're going to get to talk about basketball with an endgame in mind. We, as fans, barely got to do that even in the heat of a spectacular 2010-11 season because of the uncertainty of the long-anticipated lockout. And though we won't know which free agent is going where and under what financial terms for a few days; we do have basketball to prepare for. If you're not giddy at this point, even after being let down too many times to count, then I don't even know why you're on this site."
- ESPN's Henry Abbott writes that we can't be sure that the players will sign off on the deal just yet:
"And the players not only have real power--some of them are plaintiffs in a case that must be dropped for the NBA to operate--but they also have some bitter pills to swallow, including spending cuts that will affect several free agents in the years to come, a smaller mid-level exception, and less job security for many rank-and-file players."
- Basketball writer Chris Sheridan writes, that though it may not seem like it, even the owner's made concessions:
"When it came time to be flexible, the commissioner who once called himself “Easy Dave” moved like he was Shakira.
"David Stern and the NBA’s team owners made concessions on several key issues, both financial and system-related, to get the NBA lockout settled in the wee hours of the morning today at the close of a 15-hour bargaining session."
- While the owners may think they won this negotiation, NBC Sports' Kurt Hellin points out that they thought the same after the last CBA negotiations:
"You never know how things will play out. And you can bet in 10 years, when this deal formally ends, there will be owners saying what a bad deal this is for them and how it is killing them. Even if the fault is their own management."
- Despite the tense, and at times nasty negotiations, Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix doesn't expect there to be much bad blood between the two sides:
"A growing concern on both sides was that there could be long-term damage to the relationship between players and owners as a result of a tough negotiation that was often played out in the media. But the representatives in New York professed mutual respect for each other during the press conference and exchanged handshakes and hugs after it. All's well, it seems, that ends well."
The lockout which has lasted 149 days, is the second longest in sport's history. In 1998, the lock out ran 204 days, resulting in a 50 game season.