Continued from page 1

Because the union disbanded, a new collective bargaining agreement can only be completed once the union has reformed. Drug testing and other issues still must be negotiated between the players and the league, which also must dismiss its lawsuit filed in New York.

“We’re very pleased we’ve come this far,” Stern said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

The sides will quickly return to work later Saturday, speaking with attorneys and their own committees to keep the process moving.

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 last four titles.

“I think it will largely prevent the high-spending teams from competing in the free-agent market the way they’ve been able to in the past. It’s not the system we sought out to get in terms of a harder cap, but the luxury tax is harsher than it was. We hope it’s effective,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver said.

“We feel ultimately it will give fans in every community hope that their team can compete for championships.”

The league hopes fans come right back, despite their anger over a work stoppage that followed such a successful season. But owners wanted more of the league’s $4 billion in annual revenues after players were guaranteed 57 percent of basketball-related income in the old deal.

Participating in the talks for the league were Stern, Silver, Spurs owner Peter Holt, the chairman of the labor relations committee, and attorneys Rick Buchanan and Dan Rube. The players were represented by executive director Billy Hunter, president Derek Fisher, vice president Maurice Evans, attorney Ron Klempner and economist Kevin Murphy.

Owners locked out the players July 1, and the sides spent most of the summer and fall battling over the division of revenues and other changes owners wanted in a new collective bargaining agreement. They said they lost hundreds of millions of dollars in each year of the former deal, ratified in 2005, and they wanted a system where the big-market teams wouldn’t have the ability to outspend their smaller counterparts.

Players fought against those changes, not wanting to see any teams taken out of the market when they became free agents.

“This was not an easy agreement for anyone. The owners came in having suffered substantial losses and feeling the system wasn’t working fairly across all teams,” Silver said. “I certainly know the players had strong views about expectations in terms of what they should be getting from the system. It required a lot of compromise from both parties’ part, and I think that’s what we saw today.”

Even the final day had turbulent patches. It required multiple calls with the owners’ labor relations committee, all the while knowing another breakdown in talks would mean not only the loss of the Christmas schedule but possibly even the entire season.

“We resolved, despite some even bumps this evening, that the greater good required us to knock ourselves out and come to this tentative understanding,” Stern said.

He denied the litigation was a factor in accelerating a deal, but things happened relatively quickly after the players filed a suit that could have won them some $6 billion in damages.

“For us the litigation is something that just has to be dealt with,” Stern said. “It was not the reason for the settlement. 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. And it’s always been our goal to reach a deal that was fair to both sides and get us playing as soon as possible, but that took a little time.”

Story Continues →