NBA owners, players reach tentative deal

NEW YORK - (AP) - NBA owners and players reached a tentativeagreement early Saturday morning to end the 149-day lockout.

After a secret meeting earlier this week, the sides met for morethan 15 hours Friday, working to try to save the season.

"We've reached a tentative understanding that is subject to avariety of approvals and very complex machinations, but we'reoptimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season willbegin Dec. 25," Commissioner David Stern said.

This handshake deal still must be ratified by both owners andplayers.

"We thought it was in both of our best interests to try toreach a resolution and save the game," union executive directorBilly Hunter said.

A majority on each side is needed. The NBA needs votes from 15of 29 owners. (The league owns the New Orleans Hornets.) The unionneeds a simple majority of its 430-plus members. That process is abit more complicated after the players dissolved the union Nov. 14.Now, they must drop their antitrust lawsuit in Minnesota and reformthe union before voting on the deal.

The settlement was first reported by When last talks broke down, the sides were still divided overthe division of revenues and certain changes sought by owners tocurb spending by big-market teams that players felt would limit orrestrict their options in free agency.

On Nov. 14, players rejected the owners' proposal, whichincluded opening a 72-game schedule on Dec. 15, announcing insteadthey were disbanding the union, giving them a chance to win severalbillion dollars in triple damages in an antitrust lawsuit.

Two days later, players filed two separate antitrust lawsuitsagainst the league in two different states. On Monday, a group ofnamed plaintiffs including Carmelo Anthony, Steve Nash and KevinDurant filed an amended federal lawsuit against the league inMinnesota, hoping the courts there will be as favorable to them asthey have been to NFL players in the past.

Now, players will dismiss that lawsuit and get back to thebusiness of basketball.

The previous CBA expired at the end of the day June 30. Despitea series of meetings in June, there was never much hope of a dealbefore that deadline, with owners wanting significant changes aftersaying they lost $300 million last season and hundreds of millionsmore in each year of the old agreement, which was ratified in 2005.

Owners wanted to keep more of the league's nearly $4 billion inbasketball revenues to themselves after guaranteeing 57 percent tothe players under the old deal. And they sought a system where eventhe smallest-market clubs could compete, believing the currentsystem would always favor the teams who could spend the most.

Initially, the salary cap emerged as the biggest obstacle.Owners first proposed a hard cap, but players fought hard tomaintain the current system that allows teams to exceed the capthrough the use of various exceptions.

The league was adamant the system needed some adjustment,because the old rules gave too many advantages to teams who couldafford to keep adding to their payrolls. So the league's proposalstargeted the highest-spending teams, seeking to eliminate the useof the midlevel exception by teams over the luxury tax and preventthem from participating in sign-and-trade deals.

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