NBA Season Could Get Underway On Christmas

A tentative labor agreement has been reached between NBA owners and players. If both sides ratify the deal, the season would open on Christmas Day with three games.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

If everything goes as planned, pro-basketball fans will wake up on Christmas Day ready to open up a shiny new NBA season. December 25th is the day tentatively set to begin regular-season games after the league and its players union agreed on the essential points and a new contract. That likely means an end to the lockout. Though this is not yet a done deal, the terms must be approved by a majority of owners and players.

NPR's Mike Pesca is covering this story. He's on the line. Mike, good morning.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hello, good morning.

INSKEEP: OK, so what are the terms of the deal?

PESCA: Well, in terms of money, it's going to be about a 50/50 split; about a 50/50 split in terms of revenues between players and owners. Players used to get 57 percent of revenues. So that tells you a lot about where these negotiations were headed. For the fan, it's going to be a 66-game season. The structure of the playoffs will be essentially the same.

Training camp and an accelerated free agent period will begin on December 9th. We saw this with the NFL. It could be very exciting, although the first few weeks of basketball could include chubby players huffing and puffing their way up and down the court.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: We can't wait for that. You said about a 50/50 split. I guess the question was, are owners paying the players so much that they can't make any money? And if I'm not mistaken, the amount the players get paid might change a little bit depending on whether the league is profitable or not.

PESCA: Yes, that is true. And those are little bit of the fine details. The players could get somewhere near 51 or somewhere down near 49, depending on future revenue. The whole reason there was this lockout was because 22 of the 30 owners claimed that they were losing money on basketball. And, of course, counterclaims flied like - or flew, if you want to be grammatically correct...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: And flooded, they were really flooded with counterclaims.

PESCA: Yes. Yes, counterclaims flew that said that you guys own a team and it's a lot of fun to own a team, and when you sell your teams you always make money. So even if you're not making money in the short-term, who cares and you're hiding your profit.

But all that doesn't matter. All those charges and countercharges in the details don't really matter to the fan. The point is what look like a dire, and was reported as pretty dire situation, they got past it. They negotiated and now there's going to be basketball. So, it wasn't as end-of-the-world as perhaps some of the sports media had made it out to be about three days ago.

INSKEEP: Although the two sides were pretty dramatically drawing lines in the sand, is it possible to say who won here?

PESCA: Yeah. Well, you know, I would just say that's a negotiation. And who won, sure, it depends what you mean. If you want to take the point spread into account, it's up in the air. They'll debate about that for years. But just in absolute terms, the owners won. Like I said, players were getting 57 percent. Now they're getting around 50.

The players first accepted offer was, look, we know that the situation has to change and owners aren't making enough money, we'll take 53 - that was right off the bat. So, yes, the owners got a lot more from the players. Did they get everything they wanted? They did not. But that's what makes for a decent negotiation when both sides feel a little pinched.

INSKEEP: Just a few seconds here, Mike, a piece of news to bring us up to date on. Syracuse University has fired assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, accused of sexual abuse. Can you bring us up to date there?

PESCA: Bernie Fine is the longest-serving assistant coach in NCAA basketball and a former ball boy and student manager, who's 39 years old, has claimed that he was molested. His stepbrother, a 45-year-old man who also served in that position, confirmed that he was molested and now a third accuser has come forward.

A couple of details in the case, there was an undercover tape, I guess you could say, recorded by one of the accusers that seem to really indict Fine. And the university can no longer stand by him. And basketball head coach Jim Boeheim, Syracuse coach, no longer stands by Fine either.

INSKEEP: OK, so he's gone.

NPR's Mike Pesca, thanks very much.

PESCA: You're welcome.

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