NBA owners and players have begun talks to settle an antitrust lawsuit, resolve their five-month labor dispute and avoid the cancellation of the league’s cherished Christmas games. The sides met on Tuesday and are expected to continue after the Thanksgiving holiday with the two sides under intense pressure for a rapid resolution.
Jonathan Schiller, one of the attorneys representing the players in an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA, released a statement on Wednesday through his law firm, Boies, Schiller & Flexner, confirming “that there would be preliminary settlement discussions with the NBA immediately after Thanksgiving with regard to the lawsuit filed recently by the players in Minnesota.”
An NBA spokesman said the league “remains in favor of a negotiated resolution” but declined further comment. Because of pending litigation, the lawyers for both sides would have to reach a settlement on the framework of a deal that leads to an eventual collective bargaining agreement. Yahoo! Sports first to reported the settlement negotiations.
After negotiations broke down last week, the players’ union disbanded to allow players to file two antitrust lawsuits in California and Minnesota against the NBA. The cases have since been consolidated into one in Minnesota, where National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter said he thought a magistrate judge could be appointed to the case and host settlement discussions early next week. The union is now a trade association and no longer authorized to negotiate on behalf of the players. It would have to reconstitute in order to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement.
Numerous outlets have reported the league’s preference to have the season begin no later than Dec. 25, when the NBA traditionally begins its national television schedule, so a deal would likely have to reached by Friday. Commissioner David Stern said the NBA would need 30 days to complete a labor deal, sign free agents and hold training camps.
The New York Times reported that if the two sides reached an agreement this week that the NBA would like to stage a 66-game season that would end in late April and require the NBA Finals to be pushed back a week. ESPN.com is also reporting that Stern recently gauged NBA owners to see if they would be willing to allow all teams to use the full mid-level exception, a system disagreement that led to the most recent collapse in negotiations.
“Eventually, people come to the realization that litigation is not the best way to resolve most disputes,” David Boies, an attorney for the players said on Monday. “Most disputes ought to be settled. Trying a lawsuit is fun for lawyers. It’s our form of competition, I guess, in some ways. But it’s not good for the system and it’s not good, generally, for the client if there’s another alternative.”