Billy Hunter David Stern

NBA owners, players reach tentative deal, games to begin Dec. 25


Finally, we are going to have NBA basketball again.

After more than 15 hours of negotiations Friday into Saturday morning (following a week of secretive talks), the NBA owners and players have reached a handshake deal on a new collective bargaining agreement the sides announced. (Ken Berger at CBSSports.com broke the story.)

“We’ve reached a tentative understanding,” said NBA commissioner David Stern at a hastily put together 3:30 a.m. press conference. “(The deal) is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations. We’re optimistic that will all come to pass and the NBA season will begin Dec. 25.”

That will be a Christmas Day start with a triple-header followed by a 66-game season, providing both the owners and players ratify this deal.

There are a lot of details still to be worked out — first up are all the “B” list issues such as draft age and drug testing, things the sides do not all agree on but are not serious enough to block a deal. Then the players’ union has to be reformed (remember they dissolved to allow for antitrust lawsuits to be filed) and finally the owners and players will have to vote on a final version of the agreement.

All of that is going to take 10 days to two weeks. The lockout will not officially be over until then.

Training camps and a free agency period will begin simultaneously on Dec. 9, Stern said.

At that press conference neither Stern nor NBPA director Billy Hunter were willing to talk about a lot of details of the agreement because neither had spoken to their entire constituency yet. However, this deal is likely close to the last offer from the owners and Stern to the players. There may have been a little movement, but not a lot from the offer the players rejected less than two weeks ago.

The players got a little more than 50 percent of league revenue (BRI) but not 51 percent, according to Chris Broussard of ESPN. It is apparently going to be a band in the 49-51 percent range, but will essentially fall as 50/50. In the previous labor deal the players got 57 percent of the league revenue and that was ultimately the big issue in these talks — the owners say they were losing money and wanted a bigger cut of the more than $4 billion in annual revenue the NBA generates. With this they should about cover the $300 million the owners claim to have lost last year.

Talks Saturday took a turn towards blowing up again when players attorney Jeffrey Kessler — the real pit bull for the union — was on a conference call with the talks and said the players demanded 51 percent of the revenues. There was a feeling that might blow the whole talks up, but cooler heads prevailed.

One thing the deal will do is prevent larger-market, big-spending teams from competing in the free agent market as they had in the past, said NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver. Again there were no details but with a stronger luxury tax and other punitive measures it will be hard for teams to spend up to and around $90 million a season. The deal also raises the salary floor — those small market teams need to spend up to 85 percent of the cap the first two years and 90 percent after that.

This would be a 10-year deal where both sides can opt out at year six.

Neither side loves this deal, which is how a good compromise should end. There are owners and players that will vote against it, but it is expected a majority of both will pass it.

In the end, Spurs owner Peter Holt summed it up best:

“We want to play basketball. Let’s go play basketball.”


NBA labor meetings rolling along with little word

Los Angeles Lakers Fisher speaks at a news conference alongside Executive Director of the NBA player's association Hunter in New York

If you’re desperately looking for good news out of the NBA labor talks, after nearly eight hours of negotiations on Friday there is almost no news out of the room.

No news may be good news, or at least a sign that the two sides have gotten serious. There have always seemed to be leaks out of the negotiations before, that is not the case on Friday. That may be good news. Or not. Kind of a “glass half full” thing.

Representatives of the NBA owners and players started meeting earlier in the week and, after a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, were back at it Friday. The goal is to have a deal in place at the start of next week so there can be NBA games on Christmas to kick off a 66-game season. The calendar is the real pressure on the two sides now.

One thing we do know about this Friday meeting is who is in the room. For the owners there is commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, Peter Holt (the Spurs owner), and attorneys Rick Buchanan and Dan Rube. For the players it is NBPA director Billy Hunter, NBPA president Derek Fisher, Maurice Evans, attorney Ron Klempner and economist Kevin Murphy.

Those are basically all the same people that have been in the room since July 1. Big gun players’ attorneys David Boies and Jeffry Kessler are not participating on Friday.

So it’s the same people arguing the same issues, essentially. The difference is one of semantics — technically this is a lawsuit settlement conference, not a collective bargaining agreement negotiations. There is no more NBA union since the Nov. 14 “disclaimer of interest.” Of course, it’s the same people arguing over the same things, just with a different name. Meet the new talks, same as the old talks.

Just with fewer leaks.

Shane Battier would like to stay in Memphis, but….

Memphis Grizzlies v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game One

You know those videos of a piranha feeding frenzy when a cow picks a poor time to walk across the Amazon? That is pretty much what the NBA free agency period will look like after the lockout.

Shane Battier is about to be one of those free agents.

Memphis wants to keep the band together after it’s playoff run last year, and told the Commercial Appeal — in a post primarily about how he blames both sides for the lockout, which is a logical and reasoned position, so expect him to be shunned by those involved — he’d consider it. But until he knows the rules, it’s hard to say where he lands.

“It’s unsettling to not know what the terms of the CBA will be,” said Battier, an unrestricted free agent. “What are the exceptions, who’ll be able to use these exceptions, what kind of cap? I have no idea where I can end up. When we do finally sign, it’s going to be chaos trying to go through the free agency period, and I’ll have to make a life decision (quickly).”

Battier said he’s hoping to get a three- or four-year deal.

“Memphis may be the best place to return to if teams are able to maintain (Larry) Bird rights,” Battier said. “… I want to be in a happy place. I want to go to work and enjoy it. When you go to work and you have a chance to win every night, your job is way better. That’s for any profession, but you want to have a role and be able to contribute to winning.”

How much is Memphis willing to pay Battier long term? They Grizzlies only have $37 million on the books for next season, but they are going to have to pay Marc Gasol big money (he is a restricted free agent). Would they give Battier a mid-level like deal for three years? Would he take that? Veterans who are good in the locker room and can defend are in demand, and in the frenzy who knows who will step up with offers.

I expect Battier will start the season with Memphis. Let’s just hope there is a season.