NBA Senior VP/Marketing Communications Mike Bass indicated that the players "have agreed to submit to testing for human growth hormone provided a neutral panel validates the available blood test for HGH," according to Amy Shipley of the WASHINGTON POST. If its new CBA "is ratified, the NBA could become the third U.S. professional sports league since the summer to agree to begin HGH testing after years of resistance." But like the NFL, which "approved the testing in principle when it reached a new collective bargaining agreement in August, the NBA program will not begin until the contingency is met." NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said in a memorandum to players, “Testing will only be implemented if a committee of jointly appointed experts determine that the tests would be scientifically reliable.” Bass "did not provide specifics," on details of the NBA's testing program, but he said, “The parties agreed to implement blood testing for HGH, subject to the test being validated by a neutral committee of experts.” Hunter’s letter said that players "would be tested for steroids and performance-enhancing drugs a maximum of two times in the off-season and, in the majority of cases, no more than four times during the entire year and never on game nights." It also said that a "joint committee would 'study' the implementation of an HGH testing program" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/7).
HINDSIGHT'S 20/20? CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote in the "hours before a vote to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement, it should be no surprise drama and angst are unfolding on both sides of what once seemed to be a massive, impossibly wide gap between NBA players and owners." A group of players "upset about givebacks the union made continues to make noise about wanting their votes to approve the deal tied to an ouster of National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and the players' executive committee." Sources said that most, "if not all, of those players have been talked down from the ledge." But that "doesn't mean everybody on both sides is happy with the final product." Within hours "after the agreement was reached, the NBA snapped right back to business as usual." After a five-month lockout "and 2½ years of arguing about ways to make the league economically profitable and competitively balanced, the same old storylines returned, as though nothing had changed." An Eastern Conference GM said, "I don't know what it was all for." Berger noted the GM is "disappointed that the new CBA -- and all that was sacrificed to achieve it -- apparently has changed nothing about the game's biggest stars wanting to flock to the glamour teams and the biggest markets." Another team exec said, "None of the system issues, no matter how you spin it, changed dramatically. In some cases, they got worse. So what really was accomplished?" Free agent G and NBPA VP Maurice Evans said, "Billy's the same guy who negotiated the last collective bargaining agreement that all the players took heat for, and now everybody is scratching and clawing trying to hold onto that CBA. And I'm finding that they're going to be doing the same thing with this one. The players will have the opportunity to opt out in six years, and I would bet that they won't." An ownership source said, "When we look back on this in probably five years -- because the deal can open after six -- I think there's going to be a different attitude. I'm pretty sure people are going to say the players came out of this in pretty good shape" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/8). In New Jersey, Al Iannazzone writes after the new CBA "was supposed to limit player movement and the creation of superteams, it’s possible a mega-team could form." That is "one of the reasons some league executives believe that in a few years, more than half the teams will say this was a bad a deal for the owners" (Bergen RECORD, 12/8).
DETAILS OF HUNTER'S LETTER: CBSSPORTS.com's Berger noted Hunter "urged NBA players to ratify the next collective bargaining agreement in a letter detailing terms of the deal -- some of which were revealed publicly for the first time" yesterday. Hunter wrote in the letter, "The NBPA Executive Committee recommends that the players vote to ratify the proposed CBA. Although the players made significant financial concessions, including taking a reduced share of Basketball-Related Income, collective salaries will nonetheless increase over the course of the CBA. The players retained important system issues and achieved gains on non-economic issues." The letter also "revealed for the first time specifics of several key deal points and a litany of so-called B-list issues that union and league negotiators have hammered out over the past 11 days since the framework of the deal was tentatively agreed to Nov. 26." For example, the NBA "must maintain a detailed revenue-sharing plan during the course of the agreement" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/7).
SCHEDULE REAX: With the NBA releasing the condensed 66-game schedule Tuesday, ESPN's Jackie MacMullan said marquee teams like the Celtics, Lakers and Heat "all have to play each other because TV wants to feature them ... so they don't get some of the cupcake games that some of the other teams do.” Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said, “You wonder about some of the little things, why New York isn't going to Denver. Carmelo, no homecoming there. That would be an interesting night.” Denver Post columnist Woody Paige: “With all these back-to-back-to-back games, you're causing a lack of quality for the fans that are going to spend all the money to go to these games. People don't want to go see basketball three or four times a week. ... You're going to have problems with injuries.” But ESPN's J.A. Adande replied, “We've been deprived of the NBA for more than a month now so the answer is more basketball. I don't think fans are going to complain about getting more basketball more often. There is the injury concern” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 12/7).