Sources: Talks can begin Monday
NBA team executives and coaches will be allowed to start talking to players around the league starting Monday at 10 a.m. ET, according to sources familiar with the league's decision.
Teams were notified Saturday that contact with players -- and free agents -- will be allowed Monday as the scheduled opening of NBA training camps approaches Dec. 9.
Sources say the league, though, is still telling teams the restrictions in place since Wednesday -- which stipulate that no oral or written agreements can be struck with free agents -- remain in place because the lockout is still technically in effect.
Sources say coaches likewise can't supervise on-court workouts before camp begins Friday but teams are allowed to give physical exams to free agents.
Earlier Saturday, ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher reported that NBA commissioner David Stern and National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter have been negotiating the remaining fine points of the league's tentative labor for the past two days and are scheduled to resume Monday after taking Sunday off.
The objective, sources said, is to have a completed deal ready to present to the executive negotiating committees for both sides Wednesday. The players and owners have scheduled separate electronic votes Thursday, keeping the league on course for Friday's targeted start of training camp and free agency.
Sources told Bucher that big-name free agents such Nene, Tyson Chandler and David West aren't expected to be close to signing Friday. Teams have been slow to make detailed offers, several agents with free agents have said privately, presumably because they are wary about just how extravagant they can be under the terms of a new labor deal they have yet to see in full.
In a letter to players Thursday obtained by ESPN.com, Hunter wrote that the owners and NBPA "still must negotiate numerous non-economic matters, including the anti-drug agreement, commissioner and team discipline, and workplace rules, together with relatively smaller economic and other contract issues."
The union's hope, according to Hunter, is that the deal tentatively agreed to in the early hours of Nov. 26 will be fully negotiated and ready to present to the union membership at a general meeting Wednesday in New York City. The meeting will be mandatory for team player representatives but open to all players.
"If both the players and owners vote to ratify the agreement," Hunter wrote of Thursday's scheduled balloting for both sides, "then training camps will open the following morning on Friday, December 9."
Hunter added: "As with the union authorization process, the American Arbitration Association will supervise the ratification process. Every player will have an opportunity to vote on the proposed agreement."
When talks between the players and owners broke down Nov. 14, Hunter and union president Derek Fisher announced the NBPA was disclaiming its interest in representing the players, enabling them to file an antitrust lawsuits against the league. Negotiations finally resumed after Thanksgiving, in a last-ditch attempt to reach an agreement in time to start the season by Christmas Day, finally leading to a handshake agreement on the broad points of a tentative labor pact after 15 hours of talks last Friday.
Teams and player agents were cleared to begin contract talks Wednesday and NBA practice facilities opened league-wide Thursday. The union needed at least 261 signatures from players to be received by the American Arbitration Association by the end of the business day Thursday to officially re-form as a union and have the ability to resume CBA negotiations with the league on a variety of outstanding salary-cap matters and so-called B-list issues that could include establishing an age requirement for NBA eligibility, which currently requires a player to be 19 years old and, in the U.S., one year removed from high school.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Information from ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher and The Associated Press contributed to this report.