Players fought against those changes, not wanting to see any teams taken out of the market when they became free agents.
“This was not an easy agreement for anyone. The owners came in having suffered substantial losses and feeling the system wasn't working fairly across all teams,” Silver said. “I certainly know the players had strong views about expectations in terms of what they should be getting from the system. It required a lot of compromise from both parties' part, and I think that's what we saw today.”
But it was never easy. The day required multiple calls with the owners' labor relations committee, all the while knowing another breakdown in talks would mean not only the loss of the Christmas schedule but also throw the entire season in jeopardy.
“We resolved, despite some even bumps this evening, that the greater good required us to knock ourselves out and come to this tentative understanding,” Stern said.
He denied the litigation was a factor in accelerating a deal, but things happened relatively quickly after the players filed a suit that could have won them some $6 billion in damages if the court ruled the lockout was illegal.
“For us the litigation is something that just has to be dealt with,” Stern said. “It was not the reason for the settlement. The reason for the settlement was we've got fans, we've got players who would like to play and we've got others who are dependent on us. And it's always been our goal to reach a deal that was fair to both sides and get us playing as soon as possible, but that took a little time.
And led to the second shortened season in NBA history, joining the 1998-99 lockout that reduced the schedule to 50 games. This time the league will miss 16 games off the normal schedule.
——— AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.