Reasons for Festive Cheer at the NBA!

A shortened National Basketball Association (NBA) season is set to begin on Christmas Day after a tentative deal was reached over the weekend to secure a new collective bargaining agreement and end a five-month lockout.

A majority of the 29 owners and 450 players still need to vote for the agreement, but the deal would see the season begin with a triple-header on December 25 and run for 66 games instead of the original 82-game schedule. At a news conference on Saturday, NBA commissioner David Stern said the agreement was “subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations, but we are optimistic that will all come to pass”. Stern, NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and the union’s president Derek Fisher said they would leave the remaining details of the deal to their lawyers.

“We thought it was in both of our interests to try to reach a resolution and save the game,” said Billy Hunter, the union’s executive director. A fortnight ago talks between the two parties broke down with Stern warning of a “nuclear winter” as the decertification of the union would allow players to pursue the NBA for damages through the courts. However, with a new outline agreement for a 10-year deal, the prospect of the whole season being cancelled would appear to have been averted.

The agreement will allow for either party to opt out after the sixth year of the deal. Owners relented slightly on their previous insistence that players should receive no more than 50% of basketball-related income after they were guaranteed 57% in the previous deal. The two sides agreed to allow players to receive a 49-51% “band” of basketball-related income, which would be linked to league profitability. The deal also includes shorter contracts and a more punitive tax system to rein in the top-spending teams.

“I think it will largely prevent the high-spending teams from competing in the free-agency market in a way that they have been able to in the past,” NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver told a press conference. “We feel ultimately it will give fans in every community hope that their team can compete for championships.” Stern added: “The reason for the settlement was we’ve got fans, we’ve got players who would like to play and we’ve got others who are dependent on us. It has always been our goal to reach a deal that was fair to both sides and would get us playing as soon as possible, but that took a little time.”

Losing the entire season would have caused a major headache for the NBA’s broadcast partners. Turner and ESPN/ABC are together paying US$930 million per season through to the end of their contracts in 2016, and several projections found that the networks could have collectively lost about $1.25 billion in advertising revenue if the season had been cancelled.

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