Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) -- The National Basketball Association and its players reached a tentative labor agreement that would settle an antitrust lawsuit and set a season-opening triple- header on Dec. 25.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said the league plans a 66- game season starting Christmas Day. If players and owners ratify the deal reached yesterday morning after 15 hours of talks, Stern said the NBA will open training camps Dec. 9 and he expects the free-agency period to begin that day as well.
“We’ve reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations, but we’re optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin Dec. 25,” Stern said in a news conference.
Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, sent a memo yesterday to inform members about the proposed settlement to the lawsuit.
“The parties settled the litigation because the owners either gave in or sufficiently compromised on all of the open issues,” Hunter wrote in the memo obtained by ESPN.
Under terms of the proposed settlement, the players will receive 51.2 percent of basketball-related income during the 2011-12 season, the memo said. Future splits are based on whether the income projections rise or fall above a mid-point. Last season the league reported about $4.3 billion in revenue.
Hunter also detailed 11 issues that relate to the system the league will operate under, such as salary-cap exceptions, player options, minimum and maximum salaries, and the rookie wage scale.
Once the litigation settlement has been approved early this week, the association will re-form as a union and negotiations will begin on collective bargaining agreement issues that will be sent to players for a vote, Hunter wrote.
Announcement of the deal came on the 149th day of a lockout of players that began on July 1, when the old collective bargaining agreement expired.
The regular season had been scheduled to begin Nov. 1. Stern has said it would take a month after reaching an initial agreement to begin regular-season play.
“Rather than pursue this in court, it was in both of our interests to compromise,” Hunter said in a news conference, adding that he’s confident players will support the agreement.
The deal would allow the league to hold regular-season matchups on Christmas Day, which traditionally have been some of the most high-profile contests of the season.
The original schedule included three games on Dec. 25: an NBA Finals rematch between the defending champion Dallas Mavericks and runner-up Miami Heat, the New York Knicks hosting the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls playing at the Los Angeles Lakers.
“We want to play basketball,” Stern said. “We have fans, we have players who want to play and it’s always been our goal to reach a deal that will get us playing.”
The agreement reached this weekend will settle a suit, brought by 14 named players in Minneapolis, which alleges that the league’s lockout was an illegal group boycott that violated antitrust law.
The only other time the NBA lost regular-season games due to a work stoppage was during the 1998-99 season, which was shortened to 50 games from 82 after the two sides could not reach an agreement until January 1999.
This was the second major U.S. sports work stoppage this year. The National Football League locked out its players in March before reaching a 10-year agreement in mid-July, losing only the Hall of Fame exhibition game from its schedule.
--Editors: Jim McDonald
To contact the reporters on this story: Scott Soshnick in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org; Mason Levinson in New York at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at firstname.lastname@example.org