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NBA owners, players approve new labor deal

By Brian Mahoney

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Dec. 9 2011 6:57 a.m. MST

NBA Commissioner David Stern, right, smiles during a news conference alongside Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver following a day of meetings that ended with the ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011, in New York. The new 10-year deal was the final step to ending the five-month lockout and paved the way for training camps and free agency to open Friday.

John Minchillo, Associated Press

NEW YORK — David Stern had three deals to consider, all promising significant changes to the NBA.

A new collective bargaining agreement, saving owners more than $1 billion in player salary costs?

Definitely.

An expanded revenue sharing plan that would perhaps quadruple the money shared by teams?

Of course.

A trade that would send Chris Paul from the league-owned, small-market Hornets to the Los Angeles Lakers?

Absolutely not.

Stern announced the ratification of the deal that ends the lockout, but shortly afterward the league had to deny reports that he was pressured by owners into rejecting a previously agreed upon trade that would have put Paul in the same backcourt as Kobe Bryant.

"It's not true that the owners killed the deal, the deal was never discussed at the Board of Governors meeting and the league office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons," league spokesman Mike Bass said.

So Paul stays in New Orleans — for now — but that does little to calm fans in small markets such as New Orleans and Orlando who worry about losing their superstars. In time, Stern said, the "tortured journey" of this 161-day lockout will have been worth it.

"We think it's a very good deal, and it's going to withstand the test of time," he said.

Thus ends the lockout, with training camps and free agency to open Friday. But not before one more chaotic day in this wacky offseason that guarantees the status quo remains for now.

Besides an expanded revenue sharing program, Stern said teams and fans will see an improved league in coming years.

"It's a new beginning in a way," he said. "It's going to take a couple of years to work its way out, but we're very excited about its prospects."

The 10-year deal promises owners savings of perhaps a quarter billion dollars a year in player compensation, but largely leaves intact the soft salary cap system that the players fought hard to maintain.

Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver announced the deal during a news conference, putting an end to nearly two years of difficult negotiations that resulted in the second shortened season in NBA history. A 66-game schedule will begin on Christmas and run through April 26, forcing every team to play on three straight nights at least once.

Owners approved the deal, which allows either side to opt out after six years, by a 25-5 vote. The players' association said 86 percent of the more than 200 players who voted electronically approved the deal.

Union executive director Billy Hunter did not attend the news conference and no union officials were quoted in their statement, issued just as Stern began speaking.

Owners also agreed to an expanded revenue sharing plan, and Stern called both agreements "a watershed moment" for the league. The plan, which will begin in 2013-14, more than quadruples the revenue currently shared by teams, with Stern saying some could now receive more than $20 million and at least six teams could pay $50 million into the plan.

Stern said the current net transfer among teams of about $40 million annually would exceed $160 million. But that's of little help now to a team such as the NBA-owned Hornets, the latest small-market club to face a future without its franchise player.

The framework was in place Thursday on a three-team deal that also involved Houston and would have sent Paul to the Lakers to join Kobe Bryant in the backcourt of the league's biggest revenue team, people with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press. But the deal fell through amid reports owners pressured Stern to stop it.

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