Game on: NBA players pleased about proposed labor deal

MIAMI (AP) Washington Wizards guard John Wall didn't even need to see the details of the tentative collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players before drawing his conclusion.

''It's a lot better than having a lockout,'' Wall said.

Such was the sentiment around much of the NBA on Wednesday night, when it was announced that the sides reached an agreement in principle on a new labor deal. All that remains before at least six more years of guaranteed NBA labor peace are ratification votes by owners and players, which are likely to be no more than formalities.

Basic details include increases in values of rookie-scale contracts and exceptions, with a 45 percent increase in minimum salaries across the board in the first year of the new agreement. The rookie deals will be proportionate to the salary cap, either rising or falling as that does. The average salary is expected to hit $8.5 million next season and rise to $10 million by 2020-21.

There's never been more money in basketball, and neither side wanted that disrupted. So on Wednesday, one day before the deadline for either side to opt out of the current deal, negotiations were wrapped up and the sort of strife that caused some seasons to be shortened in the past was avoided without drama or fanfare.

It was announced simply, in a short statement. And then 10 games went on as scheduled, just as they will now for years to come.

''The game is going great for both the owners and players,'' Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade said. ''We talked about having a real partnership in the last labor negotiations. These are definitely signs that things are going in the right direction.''

Three people briefed on the terms said the proposed deal is for seven seasons, with an opt-out possible after six. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because neither side released specific details.

If the deal is ratified, the season will start a week earlier, preseason games would be capped at six and one of the most dreaded elements of the schedule - the four-games-in-five-days stretches - may be eliminated. The deadline for opting out is now Jan. 13, with the NBA saying that's ''in order to give both sides enough time to review the terms of the agreement and vote to ratify.''

''I think all players wanted to shorten the preseason,'' Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said.

Most players who were in games on Wednesday didn't find out until afterward about the announcement from the NBA and National Basketball Players Association. Many were not surprised that an arrangement was reached, although some said they expected the sides might have to extend the opt-out deadline to continue working toward a deal.

That's not necessary now.

The last major hurdle was a group licensing agreement. Among the four major U.S. pro sports leagues, the NBA was the only one that controlled its players' marketing rights for sponsorships and media. Upon approval of this deal, that control will now shift to the players.

''Great for the league,'' Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. ''You kind of felt it was going that way. Everyone is doing well. The league is doing well. That is just absolutely wonderful news.''

Even while the news was widely perceived as good, the deal isn't done.

There's been no vote, nothing's been signed, and that left some not wanting to celebrate quite yet. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich declined to comment on the proposed deal, and Spurs guard Danny Green kept his reaction on the cautious side.

''We're all hoping for the best,'' Green said, ''and I think a good outcome is coming.''

Both sides expressed optimism throughout this process, pointing to the league's skyrocketing revenue and salaries - thanks to a massive new television deal - and rising TV ratings. The last lockout lasted 161 days and shortened the 2011-12 season.

''It's good,'' Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook said. ''Better than last time.''

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Krawczynski reported from Minneapolis. AP Sports Writers Dan Gelston in Philadelphia, Howard Fendrich in Washington, Kristie Rieken in Houston and Kareem Copeland in Salt Lake City, and Associated Press Writers Terrance Harris in Orlando and Raul Dominguez in San Antonio contributed.

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