NBA Players, Owners Ratify Deal; Roster Makeovers Set to Begin

The National Basketball Association officially is back.

The league and its players, who were locked out 162 days ago when their last labor deal expired, yesterday ratified a new 10-year agreement that allows team practices and player signings to begin at 2 p.m. New York time. The season, shortened to 66 games from 82, begins Dec. 25.

Twenty-five of the league’s 30 franchises voted in favor of the agreement that allows each side to opt out after six years, NBA Commissioner David Stern said at a news conference. Of the more than 200 players who voted electronically, 86 percent were in favor of ratifying the deal, the National Basketball Players Association said in a news release.

“It’s a fair agreement, we believe, that had many compromises from both sides,” Stern said. “While it’s not perfect, the deal addresses significant issues on both sides in a very productive way.”

Under the accord, which also settles multiple lawsuits, players will receive 51.2 percent of basketball-related income this season. Future splits run from 49 percent and 51 percent, depending on whether the league falls short of projections or exceeds them. Last season the league reported about $4.3 billion in revenue, with players receiving 57 percent of basketball- related income.

Chris Paul Trade Rejected

After the league made improved competitive balance between small- and big-market teams an issue in the negotiations, the NBA last night rejected a trade that would have sent All-Star guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers from the New Orleans Hornets, which was bought by the league a year ago after it ran into financial difficulties, Mike Bass, a spokesman for the NBA, said in an e-mail.

“The league office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons,” Bass told the Associated Press.

Among the unrestricted free agents on the market are Tyson Chandler, David West, Kris Humphries, Caron Butler, Nene, Jason Richardson and Glen Davis. Forward Shane Battier said yesterday in a post on Twitter that he was signing with the Miami Heat.

Paul and Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic will be free agents after the 2011-12 season, meaning Orlando may look to work a trade before then if re-signing isn’t possible.

The league’s new revenue-sharing agreement will “roughly quadruple the amount shared,” Stern said. During the 2013-14 season about $196 million will be transferred between teams, with six franchises getting at least $16 million.

No Objections

“When we started this tortured journey, more robust revenue sharing was a very important goal that we set,” Stern said. “It required bringing along a number of teams that had grown up, so to speak, without major obligations to revenue share. I feel very good that, amongst the people that voted for this deal, the large markets were not there objecting or standing in the way at all.”

The owners and players also agreed that, at some point, the league will begin blood testing for the muscle builder human- growth hormone, though not until an independent panel of scientists decides that the test is valid, said Adam Silver, the NBA’s deputy commissioner and chief labor negotiator.

“It’s safe to say it won’t happen this season,” Silver said. “There’s no specific timeline. We’ve been watching closely what’s been going on in the NFL with their players association.”

The National Football League and Major League Baseball included provisions to test for HGH in their new labor contracts. While the NFL included it as part of an August labor contract, the players’ association has delayed its implementation while disputing the program details.

The lockout was the fourth-longest work stoppage in major U.S. team sports history, behind a 310-day lockout in the National Hockey League in 2004-05, a 232-day baseball players strike in 1994, and the NBA’s 1998-99 lockout, which lasted 204 days and led to a 50-game season that began in February 1999.

Stern, 69, also presided over the NBA during the 1998-99 lockout. He said the latest deal is probably his last.

“I’m not planning to be here, certainly for the 10, and probably not for the six,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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