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NEW YORK -- The WNBA Board of Governors ratified a new eight-year collective bargaining agreement Friday.
The biggest change in the deal is an increase by one in the team's maximum roster size to 12. Teams were severely hampered after rosters were cut from 13 to 11 in 2009 to save money and keep labor peace.
"That's huge and one of the big things we talked about," WNBPA president Tamika Catchings said. "It's important for our team but also looking across the league from the standpoint of longevity it will help."
Catchings knows first-hand how important an extra roster spot will be. Her team, the Indiana Fever, lost players for 113.5 games to injury this past season and were forced to play with eight a lot of times.
"We couldn't even practice a lot of the time," she said. "It's something that everyone was talking about and something that we knew we needed to have."
The new CBA also decreases the number of times a player can be "cored," shortening the path to unrestricted free agency for stars. There also is an improved revenue-sharing program for the players and a small increase in the salary cap.
Another change is that teams can now offer players a "time off bonus." Teams have up to $50,000 to divide up among players who play fewer than three months overseas. Those bonuses aren't tied to any sort of offseason team obligations.
"I think you'll find some players that are willing to stay at home or go overseas for a few months," Catchings said. "A few of the younger players did it this year with Elena (Delle Donne) and Skylar (Diggins). They stayed home and made some appearances."
Both sides can opt out of the CBA after the sixth season.
The two sides had agreed in principle to a deal in the middle of February and spent the last few weeks ironing out all the details. The previous contract expired Sept. 30.
"It was my first one and I feel that I'm really proud of the way we collectively worked through it," WNBA president Laurel Richie said. "There was lots of back and forth and that's the process. There was never any bitterness or anger. It was a healthy discussion and negotiation."
Free agency is set to begin Monday, and the regular season starts May 16, with training camps opening up a few weeks earlier.
"Everyone's really excited to get back to the part we love and that's the game," Richie said.