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Is NBA Joining Lockout Club? : Pro basketball: Source says owners have scheduled a vote for Monday if labor agreement isn't reached.

October 27, 1994|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — The NBA might not be able to avoid the labor strife that wrecked the baseball and hockey seasons, after all.

The league with the glitzy image and healthy bottom line is hurtling toward its first work stoppage.

Owners scheduled a lockout vote Monday in Chicago if an agreement with the players' union isn't reached by then, a source close to the talks said. The season is scheduled to begin Nov. 4.

NBA Commissioner David Stern and union head Charles Grantham were unavailable for comment. However, the sides have been talking in recent days, according to several sources on both sides.

Three weeks earlier, Stern had extended an olive branch to the union and boasted about the NBA's history of labor harmony.

"We have never had a strike and never had a lockout," he said after an owners' meeting Oct. 5. "We know what a strike is. We know what a lockout is. But those particular weapons have never been called into action. We haven't and we don't plan to."

As with the baseball strike and the NHL lockout, the sticking point is the salary cap, which the NBA adopted in 1983. The league wants to close loopholes in cap rules, while the players are trying to abolish the cap through lawsuits.

Earlier in the day, Grantham denied one agent's report that a lockout was threatened as early as Monday unless the union agreed to a no-strike, no-lockout pledge and dropped its lawsuits against the NBA. Grantham said that was "inaccurate."

Another agent, requesting he not be identified, said he understood the sides were nearing an agreement on the pledge and a one-year extension of the agreement that expired last summer.

Buck Williams of the Portland Trail Blazers, the association's president, said Wednesday he did not know the precise nature of the discussions between Grantham and Stern.

"I know they were talking, but I don't know what the results were," Williams said.

"We're still hopeful we can make a deal before the season begins, but we can't comment on any negotiations," NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik said.

The NBA has been without a collective bargaining agreement since the end of the 1993-94 season, and no formal negotiating has occurred since July 11.

Earlier this month, both sides said they would be willing to begin the season without a deal and Stern discounted talk of a lockout.

The union has filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league challenging the salary cap, the college draft and restricted free agency. The NBA won in U.S. District Court and the case awaits a decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

Two players sued the league this week, alleging it has artificially reduced this season's salary cap by a total of about $74 million.

Basketball thus far has avoided the stoppages that have beset the other three major sports. Baseball players struck Aug. 12, that sport's seventh work stoppage since 1972. NHL owners locked out players on Oct. 1, the league's second work stoppage since 1992.

Only the NFL, which has an agreement through the 2000 Super Bowl, has labor peace. But football has weathered two preseason and two regular-season strikes since 1970 and achieved an agreement only after six years of lawsuits.

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