- Associated Press - Thursday, September 15, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - The NBA and its referees agreed to a new five-year deal Thursday, just two years after a contract dispute nearly caused the league to open the season with replacements.

A person familiar with the negotiations says the referees approved the deal last week, and owners are scheduled to vote on it later Thursday at their meeting in Dallas. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn’t been approved yet.

No other details are available.

The agreement heads off the potential of two NBA lockouts. Players and owners still are working on a deal to replace the one that expired June 30.

The referees’ contracts traditionally have been for five years, but they sought a two-year deal in 2009, hoping they could quickly renegotiate when the economy had improved.

Those negotiations went poorly, with the league locking out the referees on Sept. 18, a little more than two weeks after their contract had expired. Replacement referees were used during preseason games, to the criticism of many coaches and players, before the sides agreed to a deal in time for the regular season.

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