NBA's Refs to Return for Season Opener
The NBA's regular, locked-out referees will be back on the job for the start of the season Tuesday after a labor agreement was reached this week between the league and the union's executive committee.
It won't become official until Friday when the 57 tenured referees ratify the deal in a union meeting, but they all are making arrangements today to attend a training camp Saturday, Sunday and Monday in New Jersey.
"Yes, it's done,'' said one source very close to the negotiations who asked that his name not be used. "They're coming back to work. That was the goal all along.''
Howard Beck of the New York Times first reported Tuesday that a tentative agreement had been reached.
There are four NBA games scheduled for Tuesday, and regular officials are expected to be working all four games. The replacement officials have worked the entire exhibition schedule after the league locked out union officials, who have been without a contract since Sept. 1. Most of the replacements were from the NBA Development League and the WNBA.
A meeting Tuesday in New York that included both Lamell McMorris, the union's chief negotiator, and David Stern, the NBA Commissioner, sealed the deal.
"That's when it all got done,'' said the source.
The NBA, the players and the coaches had been growing increasingly nervous about the prospect of starting this much anticipated season with officiating crews that have struggled to keep the games flowing smoothly. To their defense, though, exhibition games almost always look sloppy.
The two sides almost struck a deal last month, but a late executive board reversal against it, and an overwhelming "No" vote by membership, killed the early settlement.
The last time the league started a regular season without union officials was during the 1995-96 season. They were expected to avoid a major problem during this negotiating session because they already had agreed to salary proposals. The biggest stumbling block was severance pay and pension plans.