In a change that will guarantee playoff teams at least two home games this postseason, the NBA and its players union agreed today to extend the best-of-five first round series to a best-of-seven format.
In extending the first round, players on teams in the postseason will split an additional $750,000 on top of the $8 million pool for playoff teams. The overall payout will increase to $8.875 million in 2003-2004 and $9 million in 2004-2005. The league is expected to generate added funds in television and gate revenues.
The league also agreed to shorten training camps beginning next season, allowing veterans with four years tenure to miss up to the first three days of training camp. Twice-daily practices will be prohibited after 10 days of workouts.
The league's 29 owners must ratify the proposal, but approval is all but guaranteed.
"The players were concerned about the wear and tear on their bodies so when we were able to reach an agreement about shortening training camp and also the increases in the playoff pool, we were able to reach an agreement," NBA players' union chief Billy Hunter said.
Hunter and Commissioner David Stern added that both sides would meet in April and try to hash out an extension of the collective bargaining agreement, which lasts for two more years if the league exercises a one-year option, as expected.
The NBA, in part because the players' union decided to push the issue, said it would amend the collective bargaining agreement to allow foreign players to enter the draft in the calendar year they turn 18 years old. As it is now, the league required foreign players, but not domestic players, to be 18 years of age 45 days before the draft, the same time when underclassmen have to declare their intent to turn pro.
The agent for teen sensation Darko Milicic, from the former Yugoslavia, considered a certain lottery pick, according to some league sources, was set to challenge the rule because he would be 17 at the time to declare for the draft but he would be 18 by the draft.
North American players can enter the draft when their high school class has graduated.
Stern also said he is going to get more involved with the administration of reprimands to players, coaches and officials to stem the recent wave of verbal and physical outbursts that have led to several suspensions and fines. Stern said the fines and suspensions have been more severe than in the past and will be even harsher.
"I'm going to keep going until we get away from that aspect," Stern said. "We need to stop the whining, stop the complaining and play the game."
Note: Pistons center Ben Wallace, an Eastern Conference all-star, did not participate in today's events because he was attending his mother's funeral. He is expected to play in Sunday's game.