NBA to restart on Christmas day after lockout

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Basketball’s protracted wage dispute, which caused a lockout lasting more than five months, has formally ended with a new 10-year collective bargaining deal.

Announcing the deal, David Stern, commissioner of the National Basketball Association, said the collective bargaining agreement would create “a better business model, a more competitive league and better alignment between compensation and performance”.

The 2011-12 season, which should have begun in October, will now begin on Christmas day and is shortened from 82 to 66 games. Training camps and the free agency period will start on Friday.

The NBA union disbanded in November after months of fierce negotiations between players and team owners failed to deliver an agreement on how to divide the league’s $4bn in annual revenues, with owners claiming many teams were unprofitable. Players were fighting for more flexibility in their contracts and potential rewards for top tier stars.

As part of the new agreement, players have won retention of the soft salary cap, set at $58.04m, while the tax level is $70.3m and the minimum team salary is set at $46.4m.

The maximum length of player contracts for a team’s own players has been reduced from six years to five, and for other players it is reduced from five years to four.

The deal ratifies the agreement hammered out last month that sees all basketball-related income split 50-50 between players and owners. Last season, players received 57 per cent of revenues.

The NBA’s board of governors approved a new revenue-sharing plan that would quadruple funds shared by teams.

“The board realised that it was imperative that our revenue sharing programme be improved,” Mr Stern said. “We have found a solution that should provide our league with better competitive balance.”

The deal was approved by 25 of the 30 NBA franchises and by 86 per cent of the 200 players who voted electronically. Each side can opt out of the deal after six years.

The maximum salary increase for teams retaining their own players was set at 7.5 per cent, while teams signing free agents can up their salaries by up to 4.5 per cent.

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