Players and Owners End Lockout, Approve New Collective Bagaining Agreement

Billy Hunter and David Stern have good reason to smile: with the new CBA approved, the 161-day NBA lockout is officially over. (Patrick McDermott/Getty photo)

After 161 days of mind-numbingly frustrating and utterly juvenile bickering between NBA players and owners, the two sides officially ratified the new, 10-year collective bargaining agreement.

Finally, finally, the lockout is over.

The Final Numbers’s Paul Flannery reported Thursday that the new CBA includes a $58.044 million salary cap, with a luxury tax level just over $70.3 million. This cap and luxury tax are identical to those of the 2010-11 season, and do not differ significantly from the last three seasons of the old CBA.

This nearly unchanged cap structure was most likely built to appease the players, who will lose about 6 percent of the hallowed Basketball Related Income. They will also have to take 12 percent salary reductions.

To balance the lost income, the new CBA contains several improvements to players’ earning power. Young players who achieve NBA superstardom qualify for higher maximum salaries, and team payrolls must now reach a higher minimum percentage – 85 percent for the next two seasons, 90 after – of the salary cap.

Teams will have an easier time reaching that minimum payroll, however, because the new CBA calls for greatly expanded revenue sharing starting in the 2013-14 season. NBA commissioner David Stern said some teams could receive as much as $20 million in shared revenue, and several teams could be paying up to $50 million from their local revenue sources.

Moving Forward

As expected, the lockout lifting means training camps will open Friday, with free-agent negotiations beginning that afternoon. The 66-game season will kick off Christmas Day.

Both sides of this negotiation appeared about equally supportive of the new CBA: The owners approved it by a vote of 25-5, or 83.3 percent; NBPA representatives said players approved it with 86 percent support.

The similar approval ratings are a nice sign of solidarity after months of hostility. However, with players and owners now unified, they still face an uphill battle against a fan-base disgusted by both sides’ behavior.

Whoever benefits more from this new CBA, neither side actually won. This lockout lacked the grace and humanity of the NFL lockout. Both sides lost all touch with the people actually responsible for the NBA’s $4.1 billion in revenue: the fans.

The NFL and NHL have happily gobbled up the NBA fans who abandoned the league once they decided the league had abandoned them. The return to the NBA won’t be a stampede.

Instead, fans will trickle back slowly. Guardedly. They’ll be the guy at the party who occasionally pokes his head into a new room, just to see what’s going on before returning to his original spot on the couch.

The NBA has already lost millions from the canceled preseason and first 16 regular-season games. Anyone expecting to see jam-packed arenas on Christmas Day is setting himself or herself up for disappointment. No one wants to jump into the upcoming season, because a) everyone’s still angry, and b) without an off-season or full preseason, no one knows if the regular season will be any good.

Baseball fans soundly rejected the MLB in 1995, refusing to attend or even watch on t.v. the teams that had put them through the 1994 strike. The same thing happened following the 1998-99 NBA lockout. And the NHL still hasn’t recovered from the 2004-05 lockout.

The NBPA and NBPA have finally gotten a deal done, and an actual season will begin within a month. But to rebuild a fanbase big enough to generate the levels of revenue Stern is talking about, the league still has work to do.

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