Labor peace is being declared in the NBA.
"It's better to make peace than to make war," Commissioner David Stern said Tuesday after a six-year collective bargaining was signed between the NBA and its players. "This deal was made because it's good for the league, good for the players and good for the fans."In addition to bringing an end to NBA antitrust litigation, the agreement grants many players unrestricted free agency between now and 1994, continues the salary cap system and reduces the college draft to two rounds after this year.
Both sides had expressed confidence in winning the brewing court battles that now will not occur, but Stern said, "Whatever side's legal position was right, it's better that we settled this now."
The union had asked for unrestricted free agency and the abolition of the salary cap and the college draft. It got partial, but not complete, satisfaction on all three.
"Both sides made compromises from their original positions in order to reach agreement," Stern said. "The NBA owners and players once again demonstrated their willingness to work together."
Before next season, seven-year NBA veterans with expired contracts will have complete freedom to sign with any team, and his original team will no longer have the right to match an offer and keep him, as it does under the current right-of-first-refusal system.
Among the veterans who could benefit immediately from this provision will be Moses Malone of Washington, Sidney Moncrief of Milwaukee and Tom Chambers of Seattle.
One of the reasons Jazz president-general manager Dave Checketts signed several players to long-term contracts in recent years was the uncertainty of the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA players and owners.
That planning paid off Tuesday when the new agreement allowed for unrestricted free agency for veteran players. The agreement may hurt the Jazz as a small-market franchise not able to pay as much money for players, but the Jazz cannot immediately lose their best players.
These players would be eligible for free agency, with the Jazz having no rights of first refusal, after the following seasons:
1989 - Rickey Green, Marc Iavaroni.
1990 - Mark Eaton, Bobby Hansen.
1991 - John Stockton.
1992 - Thurl Bailey, Darrell Griffith.
1993 - Karl Malone.
Mel Turpin has a provision in his contract allowing him to become a free agent after this season, but he is only a four-year veteran and would not qualify yet for unrestricted free agency.
"This is the first time in professional basketball that a player will be able to play with any team he chooses," said Larry Fleisher, executive director of the players association.
After the 1988-89 season, the free-agency provision will apply to five-year veterans, and in the last year of the agreement, 1993-94, a four-year veteran will have unrestricted free agency provided he is not in his first NBA contract.
In order to retain the right-of-first refusal for players who do not have enough years of service or who have just completed their first contract, a team must offer a player a new contract that is worth 125 percent of his previous yearly salary. Teams also are not allowed to match an offer and then trade a player. In addition, right-of-first-refusal applies only to players who are offered $250,000 or more by their old team.
The agreement, which is subject to court approval, was reached after a seven-hour negotiating session Monday and was approved by the league's owners and the executive board of the players union.
The agreement provides for a reduction in the June 28 college draft from seven to three rounds. Subsequent drafts will be two rounds, making free agents of all but 54 college players each season. The minimum amount offered to first-round draft picks also will be raised from $75,000 to $150,000 this year, with additional escalations next year.
The league also retained the salary cap system that is based on the players' receiving 53 percent of gross revenues. That percentage will be retained, but the players will receive a guaranteed increase from $6.1 million per team this year to approximately $11 million by 1992-93.
That salary cap amount would mean that the average NBA salary would increase from more than $500,000 per player now to more than $900,000 by 1993.