The union representing N.B.A. players should be back in business by Friday morning, ensuring a timely completion of the league’s new labor deal and a Christmas Day opening.
At least 260 players needed to sign and return union cards by the close of business Thursday to keep the process on track. As of early Thursday afternoon, all indications were that the figure would be met. The cards are being collected and verified by the American Arbitration Association.
The players dissolved their union on Nov. 14 — after labor talks had collapsed — in order to file an antitrust lawsuit against the league. The parties subsequently resumed negotiations and reached a tentative settlement last Saturday morning. But the new collective bargaining agreement cannot be completed and ratified until the union is reconstituted.
The process is fairly simple, because the National Basketball Players Association never really disappeared. It has been functioning for the last two weeks as a professional association, rather than a union, but with all of the same employees and contractual relationships.
Once the N.B.P.A. becomes a union again, the parties can return to the table and negotiate a number of so-called B-list items for the new labor deal. Ratification by the owners and players is expected late next week. The league is aiming to open training camps and free agency Dec. 9, with opening day set for Dec. 25.
Although there were fewer than 440 players on N.B.A. rosters at the end of last season, the N.B.P.A. also sent signature cards to 60 rookies and to players who signed 10-day contracts, pushing the voting pool past 500. A simple majority is needed to re-form the union and to ratify the eventual labor deal.