It appears there will be no need to cancel Christmas after all.
That is Christmas Day basketball, to be clear.
After nearly 149 days it appears the labor dispute in the NBA finally ended in the early morning Saturday. The NBA players and owners tentatively reached an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, which means there will be a 2011-12 season, according to several reports out of New York where the two sides began negotiating Friday and ended 15 hours later.
The Houston Rockets along with the rest of the NBA will report to training camp on Dec. 9 for an abbreviated 66-game regular season that will begin on Christmas Day.
“We’ve reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations, but we’re optimistic that that will all come to pass,” NBA commissioner David Stern said to reporters during a press conference early Saturday morning in Manhattan.
All indications are the deal will be approved by the 29 NBA owners and the approximately 450 players, which will effectively bring an end to the five-month old labor stalemate that began July 1 when the owners locked the players out.
Few details have been leaked about the specifics of the negotiations that brought the lockout to an end but it is believed that the two sides agreed to a 50-50 revenue split of the basketball related income.
This comes as a huge relief as it looked as though the labor dispute was about to threaten the entire season. On Nov. 14 Stern issued what amounted to a take-it-or-leave offer that the players promptly left and then moved to disband the union.
The move by the players to dissolve the union so that they could file a lawsuit against the league in antitrust court may have been the smartest move they made they made in this whole process. Up until that point the owners seemed to hold all the leverage.
But with the majority of the owners claiming their books were bleeding red, the last thing they wanted was a costly court battle that could have ended with them having to pay the players roughly $6 billion for not allowing them to go work.
The prospect of losing is what likely brought the owners back to the bargaining table on Tuesday and it was likely the motivation that got them to budge just enough during Friday’s session to bring the dispute to a close.
That isn’t to suggest the players wouldn’t have stood to lose a great deal in a lengthy lawsuit because they would have. For many veterans it would have been a lost season they could never get back and for all players it would have meant no pay as long as they weren’t on the basketball court.
“We thought it was in both of our interest to try to reach a resolution and save the game and to be able to provide the kind of superb entertainment the NBA historically has provided,” NBAPA executive director Billy Hunter said to reporters.
It will be a mind-boggling process to get the season started. Many teams will need to restock their rosters with key free agents, while some teams will have to wait until several players return from overseas defections.
Stern has previously said it will require about 30 days to pull it all together and that seems about right.
But when the season starts, it will begin with bang. The Christmas Day tipoff will include a rematch of last season’s NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the World Champion Dallas Mavericks. Also on the opening day, the Chicago Bulls will face the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics take on the New York Knicks.