CHICAGO — David Stern, the National Basketball Assn. commissioner, said Saturday that league owners "are not going to accept an invitation to chaos" in response to the players' union decision to withdraw from the collective bargaining process.
On Friday, player representatives from the league's 23 teams accepted a plan to not certify the union, which would eliminate the union as the exclusive collective bargaining agent for the players. But Stern said that league owners intend to honor the existing collective bargaining agreement while pressing for the successful negotiation of a new agreement.
"My advice to the owners," said Stern, who conducted a press conference after a meeting of the league's board of governors, "is to honor the current agreement. We will be honoring the current agreement indefinitely and until further notice."
Stern said the union's decision to drop certification was nothing more than a negotiating strategy that will have little impact on the players' antitrust lawsuit against the league. The lawsuit challenges the college draft, the league's salary cap and the right-of-first refusal rule pertaining to free agents.
"We can run from each other but we can't hide from each other," Stern said. "We have to make a deal. . . . If the strategem of (union head Larry) Fleisher is to hide players from negotiating, I guess I can't stop him, but I believe that would be counterproductive."
Stern said he plans to meet Denver Nuggets forward Alex English, the new president of the Players Assn., and invite him to begin negotiating immediately.
Among the former players participating in the NBA Legends game Saturday was Jamaal Wilkes, the forward who played for the Lakers, Clippers and Golden State Warriors.
Wilkes said he has played little since retiring in 1985 because of knee problems.
"But I'm starting to get into it again," Wilkes said. "I started missing it a bit."
Wilkes, who lives in Playa del Rey and is getting involved in real estatement development, said he has been to "a couple" of Laker games since his retirement but watches them frequently on television.
"There's no particular reason (why I don't come to the Forum more)," he said. "I've just changed my focus. That chapter of my life is over. It wouldn't be painful to go, but it might be a little awkward. There's no resentment or pain or anything like that."
Asked what he thinks of the current Lakers, he said: "They're writing a new chapter, too. The only possible comparison I could make is I think they have more depth than they ever had. They have awesome depth."
Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who is scheduled to make a record 17th appearance in today's All-Star game, showed up for practice Saturday morning but was sent back to the team's hotel because of illness. Abdul-Jabbar was said to be suffering from a respiratory infection, but is scheduled to play for the Western Conference team.
Forward Mark Aguirre of the Dallas Mavericks was sweating after the NBA Western Conference All-Stars finished their workout Saturday morning at the Chicago Stadium.
Aguirre wasn't sweating because Coach Pat Riley had put the All-Stars through a tough practice session.
Aguirre was worrying because he was going over last-minute details for his wedding to Angela Bowman, his college sweetheart from DePaul, Saturday at Grace Episcopal Church in the Oak Park section of Chicago.
"It's D-Day. If I said I wasn't nervous I'd be lying," Aguirre said. "I'm still a free man and I'm scared, scared, scared. But tomorrow I'll wake up and it'll all be over."
Magic Johnson of the Lakers, Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons and Herb Williams of the Indiana Pacers were part of the wedding.
Thomas was forced to stay at practice by Coach Mike Fratello, despite the wedding. Thomas eventually left in a huff but arrived in time for the wedding.
Aguirre won't have time for a honeymoon because the Mavericks resume their NBA schedule Tuesday.
"Hopefully, we'll make the finals and the honeymoon won't be until next June," Aguirre said. "The NBA finals would be a great place to go for a honeymoon."
CBS taped Aguirre's wedding and plans to show highlights during today's All-Star game.
Tommy Hawkins, 53, a former Laker star, was hard on himself after he failed to score in Saturday's NBA Legends Game. He said he's been working so hard in his new job as the Dodger Vice President of Communications that he didn't have time to prepare for the game.
"I made a fool of myself," Hawkins said. "This was the first time I've played full court in five years. I've been so busy with the Dodgers than I haven't had time to concentrate on basketball. Next year I'll come back in better shape and get a hoop."
Hawkins said he didn't need directions to find the old-timer's locker room.
"There was so much liniment in there that you could tell where the old-timers were dressing," Hawkins said.
Guard Calvin Murphy, who had his number retired by the Houston Rockets, said he plans to come out of retirement.