Pending a vote scheduled for Friday night in New Jersey, the NBA will be spared the controversy of using replacement referees in regular season games for the first time since 1995.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, cautioned that nothing is certain until the 57 referees vote on the agreement. But unlike a handshake agreement that was overwhelmingly rejected by the referees last month, this truce has the blessing of commissioner David Stern and the referees' executive board, which agreed to recommend ratification to the full body of 57 referees. In fact, NBA officials agreed to the face-to-face meeting, the source said, only after given assurances that the executive board would strongly push for a yes vote from the full membership.
The agreement must be approved by a majority of the 57 locked-out referees -- or 29 yes votes -- before the refs can go ahead with a belated version of their preseason training camp this weekend in Jersey City, N.J.
UPDATE: Sources were not willing to discuss details of the agreement, but the two sides had been stuck on proposed changes to the referees' retirement and severance benefits. Initial rounds of negotiations were contentious, with so many accusations flying both ways that both Stern and Lamell McMorris, the referees' lead negotiator, removed themselves from the process when talks broke down last month. The low point came on Sept. 27, when the referees rejected an agreement that had been reached three days earlier by negotiators for both sides. The next day, the NBA announced it was moving forward with plans to use replacement referees culled primarily from the WNBA and D-League ranks.
Members of the executive board -- comprised of veteran refs Steve Javie, Bennett Salvatore, Bill Spooner, Joe Crawford, and Bob Delaney -- urged McMorris to try to spark a resumption in talks last week. Once assured that the executive board would back any agreement reached, Stern agreed to return to the negotiating table.
McMorris was joined Tuesday at the meeting in New York by general counsel Brian Lam and three members of the executive board -- Javie, Delaney, and Salvatore. Stern was accompanied by deputy commissioner Adam Silver, president of league and basketball operations Joel Litvin, lead counsel Richard Buchanan, and other lawyers.