NBA refs to return for regular season

Updated: October 26, 2009, 10:26 AM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

It's a done deal: The regular NBA refs will be back for the start of the regular season.

A nearly monthlong lockout of the league's 57 referees effectively ended Friday night when they approved, on a voice vote, the collective bargaining deal that was agreed to in principle Tuesday.

"We are pleased to reach this agreement," NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement. "The negotiations extended further than either side had hoped, but when our regular season tips off on Tuesday we'll have the best referees in the world officiating our games."

Approval was expected after Stern and the referees' lead negotiator Lamell McMorris, both of whom had previously withdrawn from the talks, re-entered the negotiations and brokered the final settlement in a meeting at the NBA's New York headquarters.

The referees will conduct a brief training camp in New Jersey this weekend before receiving their assignments for the start of the regular season, which begins Tuesday night with four games.

A crew of replacement referees wearing triple-digit jersey numbers officiated the entire preseason after talks between the refs' union and league officials broke down.

The NBA believed it had a deal on the eve of the preseason when McMorris shook hands on a tentative agreement and said he would urge its approval, but the refs voted 43-14 to reject the deal after one member of the referees' executive board, Bill Spooner, switched his vote to swing a 3-2 executive board recommendation that the agreement be rejected. Following that vote, McMorris -- who also is currently negotiating a collective bargaining agreement for Major League Baseball's umpires -- announced he was withdrawing from the negotiations.

Chris Sheridan is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.