Age minimum part of new labor deal

Updated: June 22, 2005, 3:19 AM ET
Assciated Press

SAN ANTONIO -- Quite a few things are going up in the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement: the minimum age, the salary cap, and the flexibility general managers will have to make trades.

Notable active players
who were under19 when drafted
Year, days Player Year Round/team Birthday
17, 257 Jermaine O'Neal 1996 1 (17)
Blazers
10/13/78
17, 308 Kobe Bryant 1996 1 (13)
Hornets
8/23/78
18, 32 Tracy McGrady 1997 1 (9)
Raptors
5/24/79
18, 127 Al Harrington 1998 1 (25)
Pacers
2/17/80
18, 178 LeBron James 2003 1 (1)
Cavs
12/30/84
18, 199 Dwight Howard 2004 1 (1)
Magic
12/8/85
Others under 19 on draft night: Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler, Darius Miles and Josh Smith.

Commissioner David Stern and union director Billy Hunter finalized a new labor deal Thursday morning and then flew to the NBA Finals to announce it. The agreement, which replaces the seven-year pact expiring June 30, gives the league labor peace for the next six years and removes the possibility of a second straight lockout.

"We decided it was time to back away from the abyss and see if we could get a deal," Hunter said.

With each side trading concessions, the union acquiesced to Stern's wishes and agreed to end the days of jumping from the preps to the pros -- the route chosen by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and others. Players from the United States will now have to wait one year after the date their high school class graduates.

Other facets of the new deal include increased pensions for retired players, harsher penalties for drug violators and teams having the option of sending young players for minor-league seasoning.

The salary cap will be raised from 48.04 percent of revenues to 51 percent, increasing the amount of money each team can spend on player salaries, and players will be guaranteed 57 percent of revenues.

There could be more jobs, too, with teams being required to keep an average of 14 players on their rosters, and players will have the right to an arbitrator's review of any suspension of more than 12 games for on-court misconduct.

On the age limitation, international players will have to turn 19 by the end of the calendar year in which they become draft eligible.

Next Tuesday's NBA draft in New York will likely mark the final time high school players will be draft eligible.

Players with less than two years in the league will be eligible to be assigned to the minor league NBDL, where the minimum age will be reduced from 20 to 18.

"This will encourage our scouts to spend time in D-league gyms rather than high school gyms," Stern said.

Tim Legler on new CBA
There are a couple of parts of this agreement that I find particularly intriguing. One is the reduction of contract lengths. This is a good deal for the owners because they aren't going to be saddled with bad contracts for as long as before. This is going to save owners a great deal of money, especially when paired with the reduction in the raises in contracts.

Also, the increase in the salary cap is a huge plus for the players.

The increase in the revenue stream for the NBA dictates that this had to happen. It's only fair that if the owners are making more money, that the players share in the success since they are the reason for it.

The most surprising part of the new CBA was the increase of the age minimum to 19 years. I think this was a mistake by both parties. If you're going to have an age minimum, then it should be at least 20. This increases the chances for a kid to make a silly mistake. Now you may see guys going to Europe for a year or doing something really stupid like waiting out the draft and just working out for a year. If the age minimum was 20 years old, a player would be almost forced to show his wares in college or a professional league in Europe.

If that's the only complaint that can be made about the new CBA, then both parties did a great job.

Tim Legler is an NBA analyst for ESPN.

A lockout could have begun July 1.

The agreement still must be ratified by the league's Board of Governors and by the players' union at its annual meeting in Las Vegas next week.

Because of the time needed to put the agreement in writing, the upcoming start of the free agency signing period has been moved from July 14 to July 22.

"David Stern and Billy Hunter did a great job bringing this to a head quickly, getting past any personal issues," Dallas mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. "It takes a lot of guts to be called out on both sides and then go right past that and get a solution, so they deserve a lot of credit."

Among the other changes were a reduction in the maximum length of long-term contracts from seven years to six, and the size of annual salary increases in those long-term contracts shrinking from a maximum of 12{ percent to 10{ percent.

Veterans will now be subject to four annual random drug tests for performance-enhancing and recreational drugs, an increase from current rules calling for one test at the start of training camp. Penalties for steroid violators were raised from five to 10 games for a first offense, 25 games for a second offense, one year for a third offense and a lifetime ban for a fourth.

Minimum salaries and benefits will increase, but Stern said it was uncertain how the new deal will affect the pensions for the small number of recipients who played in the NBA prior to 1965.

Players agreed to reduce the number of guaranteed contract years for rookie first-round draft picks from three to two.

All salary cap exceptions from the prior deal will remain, and several rules that made trades difficult have been relaxed. Previously, the salaries of players being traded for one another had to be within 115 percent of one another, plus $100,000. That first number has been increased to 125 percent.

A variety of regulations have been eased regarding restricted free agents, players falling under so-called base-year compensation rules, and the amount of time players with career-ending injuries will continue to count against a team's salary cap -- one year instead of two.

Owners also withdrew their idea for an extra penalty -- a so-called supertax -- against the highest-spending teams. They also agreed to the union's request to have luxury tax revenues divided in a more equitable way.

Most important was the big picture -- that the NBA won't have a second straight work stoppage.

"I'm sure no one would admit it, but I think everybody saw what was going on with the NHL and how difficult a battle it was once it came to a standstill, not only from a negotiation perspective, but also from a fan's perspective and a marketing perspective," Cuban said. "I think we kind of wanted to avoid some of the pain that they went through."

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