North American basketball’s NBA and players union NBPA have agreed to delay the deadline to opt-out of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) from December 15 to February 8, 2023.

In a joint statement, the NBA and NBPA said the decision to push back the date by two months was “in connection with ongoing efforts to reach an agreement” on a new labor deal.

They added if either party chooses to opt out of the CBA in February, it will end on June 30, 2023.

The current agreement was ratified by NBPA membership in December 2016, took effect in July 2017, and is set to run through the 2023-24 season.

If the two sides cannot reach an agreement by February, the risk of a labor stoppage will increase significantly. The last NBA lockout came in 2011 and resulted in the 2011-12 season being reduced to 66 games.

This is the first CBA being led by new union president CJ McCollum, who replaced Chris Paul in 2021, and executive director Tamika Tremaglio, who replaced Michele Roberts also in 2021.

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver (pictured) led the NBA’s owners through the 2017 CBA negotiations.

The NBA and NBPA have been negotiating several key issues for a new agreement, including allowing players to enter the NBA Draft directly from high school without waiting a year, either in college or in other professional settings.

The current deal requires any player entering the NBA Draft to be at least 19 years old during the calendar year the draft is held in and at least one NBA season removed from his high school graduation or what would have been his graduation if he hasn’t graduated.

The new age limit would allow 18-year-olds into the NBA, allowing players to go from high school, the Overtime Elite league, or the G League Ignite straight into the NBA.

However, the biggest bone of contention is the NBA pushing for an “upper spending limit” on team rosters, meaning a hard salary cap could potentially be introduced.

The current CBA effectively allows teams to spend an infinite amount if it is done through various salary cap exceptions, with teams paying steep luxury tax fees.

The model has seen teams like the Warriors, Clippers, and Nets amass massive payrolls and rack up nine-figure luxury-tax bills, but some team ownership groups have reportedly expressed concern about their ability to match the spending power of others, creating an uneven playing field.

The players are predictably opposing any upper limit on spending and are seeking to maintain the current system.

The average NBA team is now worth $2.86 billion, 15% more than a year ago, according to a valuation by Forbes, while the NBA’s revenue topped $10 billion for the first time in July.

The NBA’s nine-year $24 billion ($2.6 billion per year) television rights deal with US sports broadcasters ESPN and Turner Sports is also due to end after the 2024-25 season, with the league reportedly seeking to secure a $50 billion to $75 billion rights package for its next deal.

Image: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images