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NBA players get "timeout" on lawsuit in bid to clinch labor deal

(Reuters) - A federal judge has issued a stay of all court proceedings in a legal fight between National Basketball Association (NBA) owners and players on Tuesday so the two sides can wrap up details on their new labor agreement.

A handshake agreement between players and owners to end a five-month lockout was reached early Saturday with the sides aiming to begin a 66-game schedule on Christmas Day. A normal NBA season is 82 games.

The 'timeout' requested by the players was approved by U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz in Minnesota, who ordered a stay until December 9, the day that training camps would open under the preliminary deal that must be ratified by both sides.

Free agent signings were also supposed to get the green light the same day, provided at least 16 of the 30 club owners vote in favor of the 10-year deal and the union also gets a majority approval from its 430-plus members.

The players must also reform their union, which they dissolved on November 14 to pursue an anti-trust remedy to the labor dispute, before putting the deal to a vote.

No timetable for ratification has been announced.

Players who signed to compete in other international leagues were making arrangements to return, while four NBA stars canceled their "Homecoming Tour."

Miami Heat team mates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, along with friends Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets and Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks, had planned to play together in their hometowns to benefit their charitable foundations.

The game in James's hometown of Akron, Ohio, was meant to launch the tour on December 1, but has been canceled along with the other exhibitions in Chicago, New Orleans and East Rutherford, New Jersey.

"We are thrilled that a tentative agreement has been reached and are looking forward to getting back to work and playing basketball," Wade said in a statement.

"We all want to reconnect with our teams to make sure we hit the ground running when training camps are expected to open on December 9."

The free agent shopping spree was slated to begin that same day with centers Nene, Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler, forwards David West, Thaddeus Young and Caron Butler, and swingman Jason Richardson among players expected to draw strong interest.

Under the proposed settlement, the season would be 16 games shorter than normal, but would not lead to a curtailment of the playoff structure under the proposed settlement.

The tentative NBA regular season schedule would end about 10 days later than initially planned and playoffs could finish as late as June 26, two weeks beyond the last game of the 2011 Finals won by the Dallas Mavericks.

Under the condensed schedule teams will not visit every NBA city, playing most of their games within their own conference.

Selling the deal may not be automatic for either side, with some players saying they made too many concessions while hard-line owners believe the opposite.

Owners, who said they lost $300 million last season, won a larger share of basketball-related income, with the 57 percent that players received in the previous agreement trimmed to between 49 and 51 percent depending on economic factors.

However, instead of changing the payroll system to include non-guaranteed contracts and a hard salary cap, owners settled for tweaks to the existing luxury tax cap system hoping that would be enough to bring parity to the league by limiting big-spending, big-market teams from scooping up top players.

(Writing by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Frank Pingue)