The National Basketball Association and its players ratified a 10-year labor agreement, allowing training-camp openings and player signings starting tomorrow.
Approval by team owners and the National Basketball Players Association was announced today at a news conference in New York. Each team will play 66 games starting with five on Dec. 25. The normal 82-game season was to have begun Nov. 1.
The two sides agreed in principle to the new contract on Nov. 26, and today’s ratification officially ends a lockout that lasted 161 days.
The league has permitted players to begin working out at team facilities and having contact with the clubs since last week. Preseason practice officially begins tomorrow, when signings can start at 2 p.m. New York time. Trades can also take place.
Among the unrestricted free agents on the market are Tyson Chandler, David West, Shane Battier, Kris Humphries, Caron Butler, Nene, Jason Richardson and Glen Davis. Forward Battier said today in a post on Twitter that he was signing with the Miami Heat.
All-Stars Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets and Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic both will be free agents after the 2011-12 season, meaning their teams may look to work trades before then if re-signing isn’t possible.
Under the labor deal, 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.
The package also calls for increased minimum payments for appearances on behalf of teams’ commercial sponsors and an increased per diem for meal expenses, which will be fixed at $120 a day. It was $102 a day when the last agreement began in 2005.
New anti-doping provisions include offseason testing for performance-enhancing drugs beginning with the 2012-13 season. Players may not be tested on game days and the number of tests for any given player will be limited so that “a majority of players will receive no more than four tests throughout the course of the entire year,” according to a letter to the players sent by the union yesterday.
A joint management-player committee will study the possibility of implementing testing for human growth hormone, a muscle-building substance banned in Olympic sports.
Both the National Football League and Major League Baseball included provisions in their new labor contracts to test for HGH. The NFL included HGH blood testing as part of an August labor contract though the NFL Players Association has delayed its implementation while disputing the program details.
The two sides will also form a committee to study workplace rules that will consider increasing the minimum number of days off, offseason access to team facilities and limiting two-a-day practices during training camps.
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.