Labour peace for NBA

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

SAN ANTONIO -- Take that, NHL.

There will be no NBA lockout this summer.

In fact, there will be no NBA lockout for the next six years.

The negotiating committees for the NBA and its Players' Association have agreed in principle to a new collective bargaining agreement.

"I'd call it a 50-50 deal," NBA commissioner David Stern said yesterday at a media conference that also featured Billy Hunter, the executive director of the National Basketball Players' Association.

The old CBA will expire on June 30, which set the stage for a potential lockout on July 1. The NHL already has lost an entire season to a continuing lockout.

"We decided it was time to back away from the abyss," Hunter said.

On June 12, also in San Antonio, Stern held a press conference and predicted "tragic" consequences for the players if a lockout were to occur. Hunter responded with his own press conference in Detroit on June 15, at which he claimed the notion of a lockout was "lunacy."

The day after Hunter addressed the media, word leaked that the two sides were getting together again in New York. The framework of an agreement was constructed during a 14-hour meeting last Friday.

The deal still has to be approved by the league's board of governors and the membership of the NBPA. However, both Stern and Hunter indicated they do not anticipate significant roadblocks on the road to ratification.

Because of the amount of time it will take for lawyers to iron out the final wording of the complex agreement, the date on which teams will be able to sign free agents this summer will be pushed back. The original date was July 14, and Stern said the new "target date" is July 22.

NBDL DEMOTIONS AVAILABLE

Some key points in the new accord:

- Teams will be allowed to send a player with two years of experience or less to the National Basketball Development League, for a maximum of two years.

- There won't be any such thing as an "injured list" anymore, since teams regularly were using it to stash healthy players anyway. Stern jokingly said there now will be an "honest list." The league has guaranteed that, on average, there will be 14 players per team, with the maximum per team staying the same at 15.

- Players will be subject to four random drug tests per season.

- The age limit for entering the draft will go up to 19 from 18, (although an 18-year-old still will be eligible if he is one year removed from his high school graduating class).

- Players are guaranteed to receive 57% of basketball-related income (BRI).

- The salary cap will increase from 48% of BRI to 51%.

- The amount of money withheld from players' salaries under the "escrow" system will be reduced.

- The impact of the existing luxury tax on teams will be lessened, and no additional taxes will be added. The league had been pushing for a so-called "super-tax," which would have penalized the highest-spending teams even further.

- Maximum lengths of contracts for veterans will be reduced by one year.

- First-round picks will get guaranteed contracts for only two years, down from three.

- Annual percentage increases in player contracts will be reduced.

- There will be an increase in the minimum salary and benefits.

- Players will have the right to an arbitrator's review of league suspensions for on-court conduct that last longer than 12 games. Under the old system, there was no process for an arbitrator's review, regardless of the length of suspension.


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