NEW YORK —Now that there’s a handshake deal on a new labor agreement, NBA Commissioner David Stern and union executives must persuade owners and players to approve it, guaranteeing a Christmas Day tripleheader.
After a 149-day lockout, owners and players reached the tentative deal early Saturday. It comes at a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars for both sides, on top of the fans and jobs that were lost during the stalemate.
The lockout isn’t quite over, but it appears the NBA’s nuclear winter will be avoided.
After a marathon 15-hour negotiating session Friday into Saturday, Stern accepted some congratulations, headed for another short night of sleep, then planned to brief his owners on a deal that could change the way they do business.
Players, looking beat and beaten, face a tougher healing process in approving an agreement that significantly limits their earnings.
First, players must drop a lawsuit against the league, reform their disbanded union and approve the handshake deal that was reached shortly after 3 a.m. Saturday. Players’ association executives Derek Fisher and Maurice Evans hardly looked enthused about the agreement as they sat next to executive director Billy Hunter on the same side of a conference table as Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver and Spurs owner Peter Holt, the chairman of the league’s labor relations committee.
Just 12 days after talks broke down and Stern declared the NBA could be headed to a “nuclear winter,” he sat next to Hunter to announce the deal.
Owners relented slightly on their previous insistence that players receive no more than 50 percent of basketball-related income after they were guaranteed 57 percent in the old collective bargaining agreement. The target is still a 50-50 split, but with a band from 49 percent to 51 percent that gives the players a better chance of reaching the highest limit than previously proposed.
When the NBA returns, owners hope to find the type of parity that exists in the NFL, where the small-market Green Bay Packers are the current champions. The NBA has been dominated in recent years by the biggest spenders, with Boston, Los Angeles and Dallas winning the past four titles.
“We feel ultimately it will give fans in every community hope that their team can compete for championships,” said Silver, who added the luxury tax is harsher than it was.