|NBA Lockout Officially Over after Parties Ratify Deal|
Friday, 09 December 2011 03:44
The NBA labour lockout has officially ended after commissioner David Stern ratified a deal with the owners and the players on Thursday.
The deal, which was agreed on in principle several weeks ago, includes a 12 percent reduction in player salaries, a limit to the length of player contracts and a host of other changes designed to shrink the gap between the strongest and weakest teams.
To that end, the owners also approved a new revenue-sharing formula that will roughly quadruple the amount of money paid by the teams that exceed the salary cap to the financially weakest teams.
“It will help us move toward a better business model, a more competitive league, and better alignment between compensation and performance,” Stern said after 25 of the league’s 30 owners approved the deal. “It’s a fair agreement, we believe, that had many compromises from both sides. While it’s not perfect, the deal addresses significant issues on both sides in a very productive way, we believe.”
More than 85 percent of the more than 200 players who voted agreed to ratify the agreement, according to the National Basketball Players Association. However, less than half the number of eligible players voted.
Still, the votes pave the way for teams to begin signing free agents. Already, there have been reports that the league’s financially strongest teams, including the Knicks, the Lakers and the Heat, are jockeying to sign the best free agents on the market, suggesting that the league’s goal of achieving more parity among teams is a work in progress.
Adam Silver, the league’s deputy commissioner, acknowledged that teams will continue to seek the best players. But he said that the new revenue-sharing formula and other elements of the collective bargaining agreement are being phased in over several years, so it will take time to gauge how and whether teams change the way they act.
“I think in terms of behavior of teams with this new harsher, more progressive tax, behavior is often difficult to predict,” Silver said. “We’ve been wrong many times before in predicting owner behavior. There might be a psychological barrier to surpassing certain tax levels in this deal in addition to economic disincentives. But we’ll see.”
The new revenue-sharing agreement, which will take full effect in the 2013-14 season, calls for a transfer of $196 million from the richest teams to the teams that generate the least revenue. Stern, who called the negotiations over revenue sharing “tortuous,” said he expected six to nine teams to contribute to the revenue-sharing pool. Under the new formula, the Los Angeles Lakers will pay the highest amount, as much as $50 million a year, followed by the Knicks at $30 million, according to a person who has seen the plan. About half a dozen teams would receive about $16 million each.
The agreement also calls for shorter contract lengths for free-agent signings and a rule that allows a team to waive one of its player contracts and have those salaries removed from the team’s salary-cap calculation.
Taken together, Stern said the changes reflected “a joint determination to restructure the league so that the dollars would be available for our teams to be more competitive” and “that teams could rebuild.”
Under the new agreement, the minimum age for new players will remain at 19. But the league and the union will form a committee once the season begins to study the issue further. There have been calls for raising the minimum age for rookies.
Silver also said that testing for human growth hormone will not begin this season, and there is no specific timeline in mind. The league and the union are waiting for a panel of independent scientists and experts to approve a valid and reliable test for H.G.H. before proceeding with mandatory testing.
After years of negotiations and an estimated $400 million in revenue lost during the lockout, it was not surprising that Stern and Silver were happy to be talking about games again.
“I think most importantly we’re back to basketball,” Silver said.