Age minimum part of new labor deal

SAN ANTONIO -- Quite a few things are going up in the NBA's
new collective bargaining agreement: the minimum age, the salary
cap, and the flexibility general managers will have to make trades.

Commissioner David Stern and union director Billy Hunter
finalized a new labor deal Thursday morning and then flew to the
NBA Finals to announce it. The agreement, which replaces the
seven-year pact expiring June 30, gives the league labor peace for
the next six years and removes the possibility of a second straight
"We decided it was time to back away from the abyss and see if
we could get a deal," Hunter said.
With each side trading concessions, the union acquiesced to
Stern's wishes and agreed to end the days of jumping from the preps
to the pros -- the route chosen by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and others. Players from the United States
will now have to wait one year after the date their high school
class graduates.
Other facets of the new deal include increased pensions for
retired players, harsher penalties for drug violators and teams
having the option of sending young players for minor-league
The salary cap will be raised from 48.04 percent of revenues to
51 percent, increasing the amount of money each team can spend on
player salaries, and players will be guaranteed 57 percent of
There could be more jobs, too, with teams being required to keep
an average of 14 players on their rosters, and players will have
the right to an arbitrator's review of any suspension of more than
12 games for on-court misconduct.
On the age limitation, international players will have to turn
19 by the end of the calendar year in which they become draft
Next Tuesday's NBA draft in New York will likely mark the final
time high school players will be draft eligible.
Players with less than two years in the league will be eligible
to be assigned to the minor league NBDL, where the minimum age will
be reduced from 20 to 18.
"This will encourage our scouts to spend time in D-league gyms
rather than high school gyms," Stern said.

A lockout could have begun July 1.
The agreement still must be ratified by the league's Board of
Governors and by the players' union at its annual meeting in Las
Vegas next week.
Because of the time needed to put the agreement in writing, the
upcoming start of the free agency signing period has been moved
from July 14 to July 22.
"David Stern and Billy Hunter did a great job bringing this to
a head quickly, getting past any personal issues," Dallas
mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. "It takes a lot of guts to be
called out on both sides and then go right past that and get a
solution, so they deserve a lot of credit."
Among the other changes were a reduction in the maximum length
of long-term contracts from seven years to six, and the size of
annual salary increases in those long-term contracts shrinking from
a maximum of 12{ percent to 10{ percent.
Veterans will now be subject to four annual random drug tests
for performance-enhancing and recreational drugs, an increase from
current rules calling for one test at the start of training camp.
Penalties for steroid violators were raised from five to 10 games
for a first offense, 25 games for a second offense, one year for a
third offense and a lifetime ban for a fourth.
Minimum salaries and benefits will increase, but Stern said it
was uncertain how the new deal will affect the pensions for the
small number of recipients who played in the NBA prior to 1965.
Players agreed to reduce the number of guaranteed contract years
for rookie first-round draft picks from three to two.
All salary cap exceptions from the prior deal will remain, and
several rules that made trades difficult have been relaxed.
Previously, the salaries of players being traded for one another
had to be within 115 percent of one another, plus $100,000. That
first number has been increased to 125 percent.
A variety of regulations have been eased regarding restricted
free agents, players falling under so-called base-year compensation
rules, and the amount of time players with career-ending injuries
will continue to count against a team's salary cap -- one year
instead of two.
Owners also withdrew their idea for an extra penalty -- a
so-called supertax -- against the highest-spending teams. They also
agreed to the union's request to have luxury tax revenues divided
in a more equitable way.
Most important was the big picture -- that the NBA won't have a
second straight work stoppage.
"I'm sure no one would admit it, but I think everybody saw what
was going on with the NHL and how difficult a battle it was once it
came to a standstill, not only from a negotiation perspective, but
also from a fan's perspective and a marketing perspective," Cuban
said. "I think we kind of wanted to avoid some of the pain that
they went through."